Leprosy from body piercing

So I guess the latest BS fearmongering about piercing is the claim that anyone who gets a piercing should go get a tetanus shot. Ignoring that these days a majority of people are vaccinated against it, tetanus is a bacterial infection that’s contracted from the Clostridium tetani which lives all over the world in soil, dust, and manure. It’s very rare, with less than 50 cases yearly in the United States and almost all of the serious ones being limited to people over sixty years old.

It’s pretty crazy what theoretically reputable “medical sites” claim the risks of body piercing are — it’s not even that uncommon for sites to make bizarre claims like linking body piercing to malaria and even leprosy. Yeah, if you get a piercing you might become a leper.

It’s not as if people get getting piercings in leper colonies and sharing needles with lepers. It’s not as if people are first burying the needle and jewelry for a couple weeks, and then using manure for aftercare. By and large modern body piercing is done using sterilized equipment and the risk of catching long-shot diseases are miniscule to the point where you are literally thousands of times more likely to be struck by lightning than to catch tetanus, malaria, or leprosy via body piercing.

Anyway, a friend of mine’s mother just watched some TV show that was going on about how kids were at risk of tetanus to the point where if they got piercings, they needed to go right to the hospital afterwards and get themselves a tetanus shot… The following note was stuck to her door in the morning:

“Mom, it’s not a rusty nail!”

Seriously though, while it’s important to be aware of the risks of all things that you do, it’s also important to understand that worrying about risks that are million to one long shots is a slippery slope — with that attitude, you’d never leave the house. Or maybe you should leave the house because it could collapse. But if you go outside, you might get hit by a meteorite. But if you go back inside, a swarm of bees might follow you and consume you. But if you stay outside, it’s possible that a tiger that’s escaped from the zoo will eat you. Et cetera…

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Leprosy from body piercing

  1. Being a few pages back, Nobody will propably read this comment, and it will be lost to the pages of time -

    But my father had a similar thing. His tattoos are old school pieces, and he has them on his biceps and forearms. He was also once a fitter and turner, a teacher, and a HR manager.

    The problem comes from The second option – being in HR. Now, He wore long sleeve business shirts to work all the time, so Nobody knew he had tattoos – all fine and dandy, and he was on the fast track, considered one of the best HR Managers in the company.

    But, one company picnic this all changed – He wore a polo shirt, and everyone noticed that he had tattoos – and suddenly, All his brains had leaked out through the holes where they put the ink in. Nobody but the boys in the factory took him seriously.

    And now, I’m encountering the same problem. I’m a a Barman and Part time Consultant(Its a long story) and as soon as anyone sees the tattoos, suddenly, they treat me like I’m a lout or a moron.

  2. Not to knock doctors, but MDs often don’t have time to do much literature research. I work in an infectious disease lab and [at least] 3 of us have tattoos =D Also, a lot of health information sites seem to be run not even by MDs but by self-appointed experts with no

    Trust the CDC site, trust university and research institution sites, trust academic journals, but take other sites with a grain of salt.

    If anyone took a minute to look it up, the report on leprosy from ear piercing was from INDIA (biiiiig surprise). Here’s the link to the Indian Journal of Dermatology abstract: http://www.e-ijd.org/article.asp?issn=0019-5154;year=1997;volume=42;issue=2;spage=109;epage=110;aulast=Mittal;type=0

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