Research has found a correlation between having a tattoo and having Hepatitis C, suggesting that getting a tattoo may pose some risk for Hepatitis C transmission.
Reputable tattoo parlors carefully protect against blood-borne illnesses like Hepatitis C. Since the study did not control for where and how the tattoo was given, it’s possible it reflects more people who get tattoos from more do-it-yourself type situations than people who get them from licensed establishments.
On the other hand, Hepatitis C transmission occurs far more quickly than many different types of blood-borne illnesses. In the intravenous drug user community, getting rid of Hepatitis C has been problematic. Needle exchanges have dramatically reduced HIV transmission, but Hepatitis C can spread through contact with other objects, for drug users, that can be cotton balls, dipping needles into the same source, etc. It’s possible that some tattoo parlors have a similar problem—not needles but other shared objects or some other line of transmission that causes Hepatitis C transmission.
It can take 6 months for Hepatitis C to show up on a blood test. Not everyone who’s exposed to Hepatitis C will contract the disease chronically. Since there are very few early Hepatitis C symptoms, testing is the only way to prevent the disease from silently harming the liver—decades of which can lead to liver failure and other problems.