Monthly Archives: September 2016

Information ABout New Bacteria Linked to Tattoo Infections

An investigation into skin lesions that two people developed after getting tattoos has concluded that both were infected with a bacteria not previously linked to the practice.

The infections involved Mycobacterium haemophilum, which usually only strikes individuals whose immune system are compromised. In this instance, however, the patients, both from Seattle, developed rashing despite the fact that both had normal immune systems, a report on the investigation found.

“Two people developed chronic skin infections after receiving tattoos at the same parlor,” explained study lead author Dr. Meagan K. Kay from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The patrons were thought to have been exposed through use of tap water during rinsing and diluting of inks.”

Kay, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC, and her team report their findings in the September issue of the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors pointed out that tattooing is not considered a sterile procedure, is not regulated at the federal level and can be risky. And while the specific inks and colorings (pigments) commonly used to apply tattoos are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the rules usually apply only when cosmetics or color additives are involved.

The latest concern about associated infection risk arose in 2009 when a 44-year-old man and a 35-year-old man sought care for skin infections that had developed at the site of tattoos acquired at a facility in the Seattle region.

Lesion cultures and lab testing revealed that M. haemophilum was the culprit in the case of the first patient. Skin evaluations and patient interviews led the researchers to conclude that the second man most probably also suffered from the same sort of bacterial infection, although they technically classified his situation as a “suspected case.”

A follow-up investigation of the tattoo parlor revealed that municipal water had been used to dilute the ink during the tattooing process.

Water is considered to be a source for M. haemophilum. And though the facility was cleared of any safety violations, and no M. haemophilum bacteria was found in analyzed water samples, the tattoo operators were told to use sterile water for all future tattoo applications.

“It is important to remember that tattooing is not a sterile procedure and infections can occur after tattoo receipt,” Kay said. “Measures should be taken by tattoo artists to prevent infections, including proper training, use of sterile equipment, and maintaining a clean facility. Use of tap water during any part of the tattoo procedure should be avoided,” she explained.

“Those who suspect an infection in their tattoo should consult with their doctors,” she added. “Common infections can present as increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain and discharge.”

Myrna L. Armstrong, professor emeritus at the school of nursing at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, said the investigation serves to highlight the general risks of getting a tattoo.

“This is an invasive procedure. And there’s basically no regulation in force. Or very sporadic regulation. So as someone who’s been looking into tattoos and body piercing for more than 20 years, I would say that it’s really not very surprising that this can happen,” Armstrong said.

“So while I’m not being negative to the industry, I do think that the customer does need to be aware of the situation he or she is getting into,” she added. “Shop around, review people’s techniques, and make sure [you] really want to have this done.

All About Vaccinations

Public health experts often focus immunization awareness efforts toward protecting children, and with good reason: Facing a potentially bewildering schedule of vaccinations for their young ones, parents usually need all the help they can get.

But vaccinations aren’t just kid stuff.

Medical science is creating an increasing number of immunizations targeted at adults, to help them avoid life-threatening diseases in middle-age and opportunistic infections when they’re older.

“Immunization is a life-long issue that we need to pay a lot of attention to,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Some adult vaccinations are very well-known, like the annual shot that aims to prevent the spread of influenza.

“You need an influenza shot every year,” Benjamin said. “Part of that is because the virus changes every year, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.”

The flu vaccine is the least challenging of adult vaccines to promote because just about everyone can and should get one, with very few exceptions, said Dr. Carolyn B. Bridges, associate director for adult immunizations at the Immunization Services Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“People don’t have to go through a process to figure out if they are indicated or not for the vaccine,” said Bridges, noting that, as of last year, everyone 6 years and older is recommended to receive an annual flu shot.

Newer vaccines, however, are targeted toward specific age groups, which can make it more difficult to figure out which shots are needed.

For example, the relatively new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection by a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer in women.

“The vaccine is recommended for younger girls, but young adults who didn’t receive it as preteens or teens can get it,” Bridges said. It’s still being debated whether boys and young men also should receive the vaccine, to keep them from spreading HPV to vulnerable women.

An increasing number of vaccines either target senior citizens specifically or are highly recommended for them. That’s because these immunizations give the immune system an extra boost when most needed, Benjamin and Bridges said.

“As we age, our ability to fight off disease wanes,” Benjamin said. “Vaccines can help offset the waning of your body’s normal immune responses.”

One example is the herpes zoster vaccination, which is recommended for everyone 60 or older, according to the CDC. The herpes zoster shot prevents the occurrence of shingles, a painful skin disorder linked to childhood infection with chicken pox, Bridges said.

Other vaccinations recommended for seniors include:

A pneumococcal vaccination at age 65, if you’ve never had the shot before. “We try to tag that to when you become Medicare eligible,” Benjamin said.
A second dose of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccination. “We encourage people to get a second dose of MMR at the age of 50 and older,” he said.
A tetanus/diphtheria booster every 10 years after age 65.
The influenza vaccine, every year. “Flu is still a major problem in terms of mortality for seniors,” Benjamin said.
People at increased risk for certain diseases, either because of work, illness or lifestyle, also might require vaccination as an adult.

For instance, those planning to travel abroad should talk with their family physician about shots they might need to provide additional protection against infectious disease. “If you’re going to travel to other places where you might have some risk for some diseases, you might need to get a travel vaccine,” Benjamin said.

Health-care workers also need to receive a wide variety of vaccinations, including hepatitis A and B shots, tetanus/diphtheria and measles/mumps/rubella, according to the CDC.

However, pregnant women are not recommended to get most vaccinations, Benjamin said. A notable exception, though, is the influenza vaccine, which pregnant women are encouraged to get, Bridges said.

“There are now numerous studies that have shown that influenza vaccine provides protection in an infant’s first six months of life,” she said. “The mother transfers antibody to the unborn child so when they are born they have some protection against influenza.”

Yet despite health-care workers’ efforts, some adults remain reluctant to get vaccinated because of various health concerns. A common one is that, by getting the flu shot, they will actually contract the flu.

Bridges said that public health officials need to help people overcome such fears so that they will protect themselves against deadly but easily avoidable illnesses.

“These vaccines are all licensed because they’ve been deemed safe and effective,” she said. “The risk of adverse events is much lower than the risk of severe illness.”

Onions Make Us Cry

For some people, slicing a raw onion is no big deal, but for others, it causes a stinging reaction that results in tears and mild discomfort.

What’s to blame for this teary reaction? Enzymes in the onion that release a pungent gas when you slice into it, and when the gas comes into contact with your eyes, it forms sulfuric acid, which is responsible for that telltale stinging sensation. “The more pungent the onion is, the more likely it will make you tear up,” says Irwin Goldman, PhD, department chair and professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That means that yellow onions popular in cooking are the biggest culprits, and sweet, mild Vidalia onions are the least likely to trigger tears. Luckily, onions are the only type of vegetable that cause this crying reaction, because of their unique sulfur compounds.

So why do onions make you well up, but don’t seem to make your partner weepy at all? Dr. Goldman says it’s probably due to the individual chemistry of your eyes: Some people have little or no reaction to sulfuric acid, while others have a stronger sensitivity. And while some people find that wearing contact lenses reduces their onion-related tears, others may find it makes no difference.

Dry Up Those Onion Tears

To minimize onion-triggered weepiness, Goldman recommends freezing or chilling onions before cutting them up. The cold temperature causes a slower release of the enzymes, which helps reduce your reaction. “You can also start chopping an onion from the top end — where the skin comes together — instead of from the bottom end, where the stem is,” he adds. Enzymes are more conentrated in the bottom of the onion.

If onions cause you to tear up excessively, consider wearing eye protection when you slice them. “Swimming goggles really do work,” says Goldman. Or just delegate the chore to another cook in the kitchen.