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'Serial infector' hospital worker charged in NH hepatitis C outbreak that sickened at least 30
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) ¯¯¯ A New Hampshire hospital worker accused of infecting at least 30 people with hepatitis C by stealing anesthetic drugs and contaminating needles used on patients was charged Thursday with federal drug crimes.
U.S. Attorney John Kacavas called former Exeter Hospital lab technician David Kwiatkowski a "serial infector" who worked in at least six other states and was involved in a similar incident at a hospital operating room in at least one of those states.
Kacavas said New Hampshire is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, law enforcement and departments of public health in other states where Kwiatkowski worked. The other states were not named.
Kacavas said Kwiatkowski, 33, was charged with fraudulently obtaining drugs and tampering with a consumer product. He was arrested at a hospital in Massachusetts, where he's receiving medical treatment.
Originally from Michigan, he had worked at Exeter's cardiac catheterization lab since April 2011 through this past May. He told investigators that he learned he had hepatitis C in May, but Kacavas said there is evidence Kwiatkowski had the disease since at least at least June 2010.
"This serial infector has been contained, and the menace he posed to public health and safety has been removed," Kacavas said.
Investigators believe he stole syringes containing Fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic that is more potent than morphine, and injected himself with them. He then put another liquid, such as saline, into the syringes, which were later injected into the patients. A search of his vehicle located an empty Fentanyl syringe and several needles.
Kacavas said Fentanyl has many legitimate medical uses, but it also is subject to drug diversion and abuse. Drug diversion occurs when someone "switches" syringes. He said Kwiatkowski should not have had access to controlled substances such as Fentanyl.
Altogether, 31 people, including Kwiatkowski, have tested positive for the same strain of the disease since the investigation began in late May.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues.
According to an affidavit, Kwiatkowski was observed leaving the lab sweating profusely and attending procedures on his off days. One witness said he appeared to be "on something."