CONCORD, N.H.: A dozen hospitals in seven states are scrambling to identify people who might have been infected with hepatitis C by a traveling medical technician who was charged a week ago with causing an outbreak in New Hampshire.
With details of David Kwiatkowski’s resume still emerging, a hospital official in Arizona said he had been fired from her facility in April 2010 after he was found unresponsive in a men’s locker room with syringes and needles. Kwiatkowski was treated at the hospital, and tests showed he had cocaine and marijuana in his system, said Monica Bowman, chief executive of the Arizona Heart Hospital.
Kwiatkowski, 33, is accused of stealing anesthetic drugs from Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire and contaminating syringes used on patients. His same strain of hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health problems, has been diagnosed in 30 of the patients.
Testing has been recommended for about 4,700 people in New Hampshire alone, and officials are still determining who should be tested elsewhere. In addition to Arizona, hospitals and state health agencies have confirmed that Kwiatkowski worked in Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania before being hired in New Hampshire in April 2011.
While other medical workers have been prosecuted for diverting drugs and infecting patients, the Kwiatkow-ski case stands apart, said U.S. Attorney John Kacavas.
“Because of his employment as a traveler, working for agencies and being sent around the country to various states, it really has tentacles all over the country,” he said. “Its scope is unprecedented and scary.”
Kwiatkowski, who is being held on federal drug charges, told authorities he did not steal or use drugs. He said he learned he had hepatitis C in May, but authorities say there is evidence that it was diagnosed as early as June 2010. Kacavas said nailing down that date is his top priority, but in the meantime, the uncertainty is complicating efforts by hospitals to make recommendations about testing.
In Michigan, officials at Oakwood Annapolis Hospital in Wayne noted that there was no indication that Kwiatkowski had hepatitis C when he was employed there from January to September 2007, and that he passed at least two drug tests during that time. State health officials said they are looking into other locations where Kwiatkow-ski worked and what steps, if any, they need to take.
Other states are already notifying patients and offering free testing.
Twenty-five former patients at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where Kwiatkowski worked for three months in late 2007 and early 2008, have been asked to get tested.