Man dies after getting tattoo from unlicensed, home-based body artist, officials say

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GREELEY, Colo. -- A Greeley man has died after suffering complications from an infected tattoo he received from an unlicensed, home-based body artitst.

Weld County Health Officials say 52-year-old Nemecio Benavidez, got a tattoo from the unlicensed tattoo artist in mid-October and got an infection. About a week later he died of sepsis.

“It doesn’t matter where the infection starts, it sets off a cascade of inflammation that causes organ failure and death,” said Dr. Mary Laird Warner, who works in Critical Care Medicine at Swedish Medical Center.

Dr. Warner says sepsis can be triggered by any kind of infection.

“You can have pneumonia, you can have a skin infection from a tattoo, you can have an infected gall bladder,” she said.

It’s why every nurse at Swedish carries sepsis warning cards, which feature a checklist of actions to take quickly if sepsis is suspected.

Nemecio Benavidez

Nemecio Benavidez

“Within eight hours your mortality is 50 percent,” Dr. Warner said. “So you’ve got to get to a hospital early and you’ve got to have a smart doctor who is thinking about and looking for it, recognizes it and intervenes early.”

Though sepsis can stem from any kind of infection, knowing how to avoid an infected tattoo is also critical.

“We have to cover up a lot of home tattoos, kitchen tattoos,” said Jessie “Juicy” Wells, manager at Think Tank Tattoo in Denver. “Just people not knowing what they were doing.”

Each Colorado county handles inspections and licensing, but customers should always look for clean conditions and artists who display current licenses.

“Cheap tattoos aren’t good and good tattoos aren’t cheap,” Wells said.

And remember, just like the art, the importance of cleanliness doesn’t fade after the work is done.

“Most infections occur once people leave,” Wells said.

The Rules and Regulations for Body Art Establishments address general sanitation and disease control, and apply to every body artist in Colorado.

County health departments can impose more stringent regulations, as well as license and inspect artists and body art studios.

Some counties have their own regulations, and inspect and license artists and studios, while other counties only respond to complaints.

County inspection programs (not all counties have inspections online)

For more information, contact your local county health department

Artists working from home

  • Body artists can work from their homes only if a designated area is used for all procedures, and the area and artist meet the requirements found in the Rules and Regulations for Body Art Establishments
  • A plan review may be required for body art facilities, depending on the county it's located in

See above for county contact information

Body art and minors

  • Body artists can’t perform body art procedures on a minor without consent from the minor’s parent or legal guardian
  • Body artists who perform such a procedure without parental consent can be fined $250 for each offense, regardless of whether the artist or studio is located in a county with an inspection program
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