Another patient has been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the New Hampshire Department of Public Health announced Wednesday. The latest diagnosis brings the number of hepatitis C cases linked to Exeter Hospital to 32.
The hepatitis outbreak in New Hampshire occurred when a former employee David Matthew Kwiatkowski passed on the virus to potentially thousands of patients at the hospital after he allegedly swapped new syringes with dirty ones.
Since the outbreak, more than a 1,000 patients tested between April 1, 2011, and May 25, 2012, at the Exeter Hospital. Officials say that many more are yet to be tested for the virus.
Medical Daily had earlier reported that "serial infector" Kwiatkowski, a travelling lab technician, was arrested and charged on July 19 for allegedly illegally obtaining a controlled substance and tampering with a consumer product with "reckless disregard" for the health of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
"As we have stated previously, this is a complex investigation with many moving pieces. This is yet another new development and as we have done thus far, we will continue to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding this infection," said NH State Epidemiologist Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis.
Officials say that the newest patient who tested positive for Hepatitis C was treated at the hospital before the suspect joined the hospital. Officials have now recommended testing of hospital staff. However, they maintain that the number of patients to be tested for an exposure is restricted to those treated in the cardiac catheterization lab, operating room and intensive care unit.
"To rule out that any other staff was involved we have recommended testing of certain Exeter Hospital employees,” said Alroy-Preis, in a press release.
Dr. Christine Bean, Director of New Hampshire’s Public Health Laboratory, has said that lab workers have already worked all weekend to prepare samples for tests, New Hampshire News reports.
“We had people here at our state lab working ‘til midnight this past weekend to get samples prepared to be able to keep up with the testing and get the samples ready to run. So we had people working Friday evening, all day Saturday, Saturday evening and Sunday. And using some backup staff to do additional duties," Bean said, according to New Hampshire News.
Senate President Peter Bragdon and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley have said that people responsible for the outbreak and "in particular Exeter Hospital" will be expected to pay the bills for the testing and that "taxpayers should in no way be expected to shoulder the costs of these tests," the Concord Monitor reports.