BACKGROUND: Body piercing has become increasingly popular, leading to concerns about the associated risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission during piercing. Many body-piercing practitioners (BPPs) have recently entered the industry but little is known about their training and understanding of HCV transmission. This study measured BPP knowledge about HCV and infection control procedures. It also tested for HCV contamination within body-piercing establishments.
METHODS: BPPs completed a questionnaire about the number and type of piercings performed, their methods for disposing of and reprocessing piercing equipment, and their training and knowledge of HCV. Environmental swabs were collected and tested for HCV RNA.
RESULTS: BPPs at 35 establishments were recruited. A total of 31 BPPs had training as a BPP, ranging from 1 hour to 6 years (median: 15 days). Reprocessing of equipment was variable; 8 establishments inadequately reprocessed piercing guns and 4 inadequately reprocessed forceps or guiding equipment. All BPPs were aware of HCV but many did not know how the virus was transmitted. A total of 19 BPPs performed extra cleaning after piercing a customer known to be HCV positive. No environmental swabs tested were positive for HCV RNA.
CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that many BPPs had inadequate training, and lacked knowledge and understanding of HCV transmission, infection control, and universal precautions. To reduce the risk of HCV transmission, BPPs should be required to undergo formal training in infection control before being registered as BPPs.