Hepatitis C linked to New Hampshire Hospital Worker

So far, 44 people in four states have been infected from tainted needles.

syringesSyringes image via Shutterstock

A former traveling hospital worker is accused of spreading hepatitis C through tainted needles, and five new cases were announced last week, bringing the total to 44 cases in four states. David Kwiatkowski, whom prosecutors are now calling a “serial infector,” is charged with stealing painkillers from New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-filled syringes filled with his own infected blood. He pleaded not guilty in early December to 14 federal drug charges and has been in jail since his arrest in July.

Thirty-two New Hampshire patients have tested positive for the same strain of the disease Kwiatkowski carries, and a dozen other cases have emerged in some of the 18 hospitals in seven states where he previously worked. Maryland health officials announced four new cases last week, all involving patients at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Kwiatkowski worked in 2009 and 2010.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (inflammation) of the liver. People who get infected with hepatitis C can develop a chronic infection. Usually there are no symptoms. If the infection is present for many years, the liver can be permanently scarred.

Over the years, Kwiatkowski was fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft. At University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the hospitals he was employed, a co-worker accused him of swiping a syringe from an operating room and sticking it down his pants.

Hospitals across the country are recommending nearly 8,000 people get tested for hepatitis C. How was this guy able to continue to get hospital jobs? Clearly, the temp agencies that employed him need a better vetting process.