Rise in Hepatitis C cases leads to arrests of tattooists in southwest Virginia

In this May 26, 2015, photo, Justin Kennedy, a recovering injection drug user and participant in the Perry County Drug Court, smokes a cigarette as he hangs out with a friend in Hazard, Ky. Public health officials warn that if the region doesn't get the IV drug abuse problem under control, it's likely to see a Hepatitis C or HIV outbreak. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

PULASKI, Va. (AP) — A rise in hepatitis C cases has led to the arrests of tattoo artists in southwest Virginia.

The Roanoke Times reported Sunday that more people could be charged as the investigation continues.

The small city of Hazard, Ky., shown Tuesday, May 26, 2015, nestled in the heart of the coal fields of Appalachia and is at the heart of an injection drug use problem in the region. Public health officials warn if the region doesn’t get the problem under control, it’s likely to see a Hepatitis C or HIV outbreak. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

Police in Pulaski, Virginia, arrested four men in June for unlicensed tattooing, a misdemeanor offense. Hepatitis is a viral infection that can damage people’s livers, sometimes fatally.

Police Chief Gary Roche and attorneys working on the cases said they could not recall similar charges in the region’s courts.

Pulaski police issued a warning in May that hepatitis C had been spread by unclean and unlicensed tattooing.

It’s illegal in Virginia to charge money for tattoos without a license. And health departments are required to inspect tattoo parlors.

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