David Kwiatkowski, NH Hospital Employee, Infected 31 People With Hepatitis C

By Amir Khan on July 20, 2012 10:12 AM EDT

Injection
David Kwiatkowski, a New Hampshire hospital employee, has been indicted for infecting 31 patients with Hepatitis C in his hospital's cardiac catheterization lab. Kwiatkowski was arrested and charged with acquiring a controlled substance and tampering with "reckless disregard" for the risk of others. (Photo: Creative Commons)

David Kwiatkowski, a New Hampshire hospital employee, has been indicted for infecting 31 patients with Hepatitis C in his hospital's cardiac catheterization lab. Kwiatkowski was arrested and charged with acquiring a controlled substance and tampering with "reckless disregard" for the risk of others.

The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital," U.S. attorney John P. Kacavas said, according to ABC News. "With his arrest, we have eliminated the 'serial infector' posed to public and health safety."

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Kwiatkowski, who tested positive for Hepatitis C in June 2010, had been stealing syringes of Fentanyl, an anesthetic that is more powerful than morphine. He would inject himself with the drug and refill the vial with saline solution, passing the disease on to the patient who received the syringe.

Hepatitis C damages livers and causes jaundice killed over 15,000 people in 2007 and surpassed HIV-related deaths, which accounted for nearly 13,000 deaths, for the first time. Many of the 3.2 million people in the United States infected with hepatitis do not know it. Symptoms are either not present or very mild, which could leave the disease undiagnosed for decades.

Hepatitis C is treated with antivirals given over the course of a year and treatment is effective in approximately 40 percent of cases, according to the CDC. However, new drugs have the ability to boost that rate to 75 percent and take only six months to work

Knowing your status is one of the biggest weapons against hepatitis C, according to the CDC. The condition is treatable and people who are at-risk need to get tested.

Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago are at the highest risk, according to the CDC.  People who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to July 1992 and people who received transfusions to help with blood clotting before 1987 should be tested as well.

Untreated hepatitis C is the primary cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, which causes scarring of the liver. Liver transplants are common in people with the disease.

"[Hepatitis C] is a leading and preventable cause of premature death in the United States," Dr. Scott Holmberg, study authors and chief of epidemiology and surveillance in CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis, told HealthDay.

"Early detection and intervention can be cost-effective and save lives," he said.

 Other hospital employees said Kwiatkowski was known for erratic behavior and lying. Kwiatkowski's roommate once asked him why he had needles in his laundry, and Kwiatkowski said that was being treated for cancer, according to ABC News.

Kwiatkowski was arrested Thursday morning. He faces up to 24 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count he is found guilty of. 

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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