Canceled Hepatitis C Tests Flame 'Serial Infector' Fears
Hospital says there were logistical problems in testing thousands.
July 29, 2012— -- Testing of more than 3,000 people who may have been infected with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire by an alleged "serial infector" was canceled this weekend, leaving some former patients scared and angry.
Health officials cancelled the weekend testing clinic, even though they asked the former patients at Exeter Hospital to get tested, because they said the logistics were too much.
David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital, was indicted last week for allegedly infecting 31 people with hepatitis C at that hospital, but might have infected thousands of patients in at least 13 hospitals where he has worked.
Kwiatkowski had allegedly been stealing syringes of the anesthetic Fentanyl intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with another liquid-like saline, according to a statement from the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.
Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, according to the affidavit.
"If he knew that he was infected and he put those needles back on the shelf, that is the definition of evil," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, told Good Morning America. "Anyone who was in those hospitals when he was working there is potentially at risk. We're talking tens of thousands of people."
Kwiatskowski, 32, was a temporary employee at Exeter Hospital who has worked in at least eight hospitals in 13 states, Besser said.
Exeter Hospital issued a press release this week, indicating that the state Department of Health and Human Services and its Division of Public Health Services have decided to expand hepatitis C testing to anyone who was a patient in one of the hospital operating rooms or the intensive care unit. Government health officials are urging about 6,000 patients to get tested in Exeter Hospital alone, according to the release.
"You go under and you wake up hours later and you don't know who was around you," a former patient told The Boston Herald on condition of anonymity this week. "I'm scared. I have no idea who was around me when I was under and unfortunately, I was there three different times."
Kwiatkowski was arrested and indicted on July 19 for allegedly acquiring a controlled substance by fraud and tampering with a consumer product with "reckless disregard" for the risk of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
"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 in a press release. "With his arrest, we have eliminated the 'serial infector' posed to public and health safety."
But Marlborough Police actually picked Kwiatkowski up at a Massachusetts Holiday Inn nearly a week before his arrest, on a July 13 medical call, according to police narrative obtained by ABCNews.com. After finding Kwiatkowski intoxicated and surrounded by pills and a note, officers determined he was "trying to harm himself."
"I noticed he was very unsteady on his feet and had a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath," Officer James O'Malley wrote in the report.
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