UPDATE: Settlement Reached in Piercing Infection Case

By: WIFR Newsroom
By: WIFR Newsroom
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UPDATE: On Tuesday, March 18th, a settlement was reached in the case involving 11 people who all had infections that was said to be caused by contaminated piercing equipment at Euro II Tattoo.

The plaintiffs ranged in age from 14 to 53 years old and all suffered from confirmed cases of pseudomonas aeruginosa shortly after getting piercings at Euro II Tattoo.

All 11 victims underwent treatment with courses of antibiotics, surgical incisions to drain the infected sites. Six victims were hospitalized due to the infection. We're told all 11 have various degrees of permanent scarring and disfigurement and 2 suffer hearing loss in the affected ears.

The total award for all 11 victims as over $350,000 which includes compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and disfigurement. Medical bills fro the victims totaled nearly $110,000 with one person's bills exceeding $41,000.

Peudomonas aeruginosa infections can be serious and in some cases can result in death. The cases were confirmed by the Winnebago County Health Department and were caused by using piercing equipment and supplies that were contaminated at Euro II Tattoo in Rockford.


UPDATE: Below is a release from the Winnebago County Health Department concerning the Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.

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After a month long investigation, the Winnebago County Health Department confirms a positive match of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in environmental samples linked to recent body piercing infections reported from January 2, 2013 through July 13, 2013 at Euro II Tattoo in Rockford, Illinois.

On July 19, 2013, samples were taken from the facility to be submitted for testing. Results confirmed that Pseudomonas aeruginosa was identified in the diluted green soap, on a swab from the cap threads of the diluted green soap squirt bottle, a swab from the alcohol (isopropyl) bottle, and on a swab of the tincture of green soap.

Today, August 22, 2013, the Winnebago County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health inspected the facility. Upon the inspection, the owner has demonstrated to be in compliance with all requirements and is approved to reinstate body piercing operations. Euro II Tattoo voluntarily ceased piercing operations on July 15, 2013.

Pseudomonas is a bacterium commonly found in the environment: in animals, humans, and soil. The most common type causing infections in humans is called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Pseudomonas often invades tissue and causes infection. Specifically, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the most virulent strain of Pseudomonas organisms. It can colonize on open wounds, causing infections, abscesses, and sepsis, with edema and/ or discoloration of the skin.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been found to survive within droplet nuclei and can remain in aerosols for long periods of time with evidence of potential airborne transmission. Contact with contaminated water is also a mode of transmission. Routes that pose the greatest health risk are broken skin exposure and lung exposure from inhaling aerosols. The bacteria can often enter the body through injuries and wounds. The incubation period varies according to infection site and type. Pseudomonas can survive for months on surfaces and objects. Certain strains have been found to be able to grow in disinfectant solutions. Isopropyl alcohol 4% v/v or ethyl alcohol 6% v/v are effective disinfectants for this organism when used appropriately.


STATELINE (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Health Department says there are now 17 confirmed cases of a potentially disfiguring infection and 12 probable cases. That’s nearly double the number reported just a few weeks ago. Six people have been hospitalized and 13 have had to go under the knife to drain an abscess caused by the infection.
The infection is usually caused by unsterile conditions. A Freedom of Information request reveals the Health Department thinks Euro II Tattoo on East State Street is likely to blame and right now, they’re the only shop being investigated.


UPDATE: STATELINE (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Health Department has announced an updated case count of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. Preliminary data indicates there are 17 laboratory confirmed cases and 12 probable cases. Cases range in age from 13 to 49; all had ears pierced between 1/22/2013 and 7/9/2013. Six patients were hospitalized and thirteen required the surgical intervention incision and draining as part of their treatment. Persons who developed infections reside in Winnebago, Boone, Ogle, Dekalb, Stephenson and McHenry Counties.

It is important to re-emphasize, individuals interested in body piercing should verify that the facility is registered with the State of Illinois. Make sure the person doing the piercing has washed their hands and is wearing gloves for the piercing procedure. Also, ensure the jewelry has been properly sterilized and free of scratches or irregular surfaces. Individuals should ask if the piercer follows the IDPH tattoo and body piercing guidelines. If you have recently had a piercing, make sure to keep the area dry and clean. Follow any instructions given to you for after care. Such instructions could include:
• Wash your hands prior to touching the piercing; do not touch except when cleaning.
• Stay healthy; the healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be for your piercing to heal.
• Showers tend to be safer than taking baths, as bathtubs can harbor bacteria. If you bathe in a tub, clean it well before each use and rinse off the piercing when you get out.

At this time all indications are that this infection is isolated to a single facility. However, this is still an on-going epidemiological investigation; please contact the Winnebago County Health Department at (815) 720-4050 to report a recent history of ear piercing and symptoms at the site of the ear piercing. If a person has had an ear piercing and develops redness, swelling or pain following a piercing, especially of the upper ear, they should seek medical attention and should contact their local Health Department. There is still is a concern that there may be other cases in the community that have not been reported or adequately treated.

People living in Boone County may contact the Boone County Health Department at 815-544-2951. People living in Ogle County may contact Ogle County Health Department at 815-732-7330. Individuals living in Stephenson County may contact the Stephenson County Health Department at (815) 599-8429. People in Dekalb County may contact the Dekalb County Health Department at 815-748-2463. Individuals in McHenry County may contact the McHenry County Health Department at 815-334-4500. For more information, go to www.wchd.org.


STATELINE (WIFR) – We’ve just learned the name of the Rockford shop accused of being the source of where at least a dozen people suffered infections after getting their ears pierced there.

We filed a Freedom of Information Act request and just heard back.

The Winnebago County Health Department says all of the infected people got their ears pierced at Euro II Tattoo on East State Street.

The Health Department also says the number of infected has also increased from nine to twelve and that there are four more possible cases. All of the infected got their upper ear cartilage pierced between March 28th and July 9th. Ten of those people required getting a surgical procedure done to help treat the infection.

We spoke to Euro Tattoo’s owner today, Rober Schaal. He says his shop has been cooperative with this investigation and says he doesn’t believe Euro is responsible. He says there’s no proof.

Schaal also says piercing infections can develop during the post-piercing process and adds Euro does all kinds of body piercings and nobody has come forward about anything other than cartilage ear piercing infections.


STATELINE (WIFR) – Nine Stateliners are recovering from ear piercing infections, all of whom got their cartilage pierced at the same undisclosed Rockford shop.

It’s not a pretty sight, a piercing infection, but that’s what nearly a dozen people got in recent weeks from a boutique in Rockford.

The infected range from 13 to 39 years old. They all had their upper ear cartilage pierced from late May through July 9th. The Winnebago County Health Department says the shop has voluntarily stopped doing piercings but it won’t release that shop’s name.

“They’re more than happy to call us for whatever information we have but while the investigation is ongoing it’s premature to discuss the name of any facility because there may be other facilities,” said Mike Bacon.
Robert Schaal, owner of Euro Tattoo says ear infections aren’t uncommon, but you have to take precautions.

“If you go to a shop that doesn’t open stuff up in front of you, you’re taking a big risk.”

Things like needle packages. He says you want to make sure tools and the spot to be pierced are sterilized because bacteria can live on the skin.

“It’s in the soil, it’s in the water, so it’s just a matter of if it gets into a warm, moist environment where it can set up housekeeping and multiply,” said Leslie Dean, Medical Director of WCHD.

Seven of the nine had to have a procedure to help drain abscess(es) as part of treatment for the infection. Shops are inspected at least once a year, and this shop did pass its inspection last year. If you have an ear piercing infection, the health department asks you to report it to them.

We asked the Health Department why they won’t release the name of the shop and they tell that there could be other shops involved and they don’t have 100% proof that this facility is responsible since they’re still investigating. They don’t want to incriminate anyone before they get all the information. The Health Department also tells us an infection can happen during the post-piercing care process as well.


STATELINE (WCHD) -- The Winnebago County Health Department has identified a cluster of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial infections in individuals that have had their ears pierced recently. Persons who developed infections reside in Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties.

“We have identified nine cases of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial infections with six of those being laboratory-confirmed. All nine infections have occurred in recent weeks and followed upper ear cartilage piercings done at a shop in Rockford, Illinois,” said Winnebago County Health Administer Mike Bacon.

The cases range in age from 13 to 39 of age; all had their ears pierced between late-May through July 9, 2013. “Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a serious bacterial infection that can carry some potential for permanent disfigurement,” said Bacon. “Pseudomonas infections of ear cartilage can be difficult to treat. In all, six patients were admitted to the hospital, seven required an incision to drain the abscess(es), as part of their treatment. There is concern that there may be other cases in the community that have not been reported or adequately treated. Failure to treat the infections could result in permanent ear deformity, or, more seriously, the infection could spread to other parts of the body,” added Bacon.

“We are continuing to investigate,” said Winnebago County Health Department’s Director of Health Protection and Promotion, Dee Dunnett. Environmental samples have been collected for testing. “Preliminary information gathered shows only people who were pierced on the upper ear cartilage became infected,” she added.

On July 17, 2013, the shop was inspected by representatives of the Illinois Department of Public Health along with the Winnebago County Health Department. Both agencies are regulatory agents for body piercing establishments. An inspection was also conducted on July 15th. “The owner has voluntarily suspended all piercing operations at the shop. The owners and staff have been cooperative in this investigation,” said Environmental Health Director, Larry Swacina.

If a person who has had an ear piercing develops redness, swelling or pain following a piercing, especially of the upper ear, should be assessed by a physician for potential infection, and should contact their local Health Department.

Individuals interested in body piercing should verify that the facility is registered with the State of Illinois. Make sure the person doing the piercing has washed their hands and is wearing gloves for the piercing procedure. Also, ensure the jewelry has been properly sterilized and free of scratches or irregular surfaces. Individuals should ask if the piercer follows the IDPH tattoo and body piercing guidelines. If you have recently had a piercing, make sure to keep the area dry and clean. Follow any instructions given to you for after care. Such instructions could include:

• Wash your hands prior to touching the piercing; do not touch except when cleaning.
• Stay healthy; the healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be for your piercing to heal.
• Showers tend to be safer than taking baths, as bathtubs can harbor bacteria. If you bathe in a tub, clean it well before each use and rinse off the piercing when you get out.

Again, health officials recommend that if you or someone you know has recently had a piercing and is experiencing symptoms, call a primary care physician or go to an immediate care clinic for follow-up. Because this is an on-going epidemiological investigation, please contact the Winnebago County Health Department at (815)720-4000, or 815-720-4050 to report a recent history of ear piercing and experiencing an infection at the site of ear piercing. People living in Boone County may contact the Boone County Health Department at 815-544-2951. People living in Ogle County may contact Ogle County Health Department at 815-732-7330. For additional information, go to www.wchd.org.


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