Testing of more than 3,000 people who may have been infected with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire hospital by an ex-employee deemed "serial infector" was cancelled this past weekend, leaving many former patients frightened and angry.
New Hampshire health officials had cancelled hepatitis C testing that had been scheduled to take place over the weekend for July 28 and 29, because they said they didn't have enough time to set them up, according to reports from MyFoxBoston.
Authorities had recommended that former patients at Exeter Hospital get tested as soon as possible because they may have been infected by David Matthew Kwiatkowski, a former employee charged with of infecting at least 31 individuals with hepatitis C at the hospital since he began working at the hospital in April 2011 as a lab technician.
The 33-year-old traveling lab technician who may have infected thousands of patients in at least 13 hospitals where he had been employed, had allegedly been stealing syringes containing anesthetic Fentanyl intended for patients, injecting himself with them and then putting another liquid, like saline, into the syringes which were later used to inject patients in the hospital, according to a statement from the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.
Authorities believe that since Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010, he has passed it on to multiple hospital patients were who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, which resulted in an outbreak of the blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues among patients at the New Hampshire hospital.
“The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital,” US Attorney John P. Kacavas said in a news release earlier this month. “With his arrest, we have eliminated the menace this ‘serial infector’ posed to public health and safety.”
Kwiatkowski 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 risk of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
Exeter Hospital issued a press release on July 24 saying that the state Department of Health and Human Services and its Division of Public Health Services were expanding hepatitis C testing to all patients who had been in the hospital operating rooms or the intensive care unit and urged about 6,000 patients to get tested in Exeter Hospital alone.
“As part of our investigation we have uncovered additional information that has indicated the suspect, while working in the Hospital’s Cardiac Catheritization Lab, may also have accessed these other areas of the hospital,” Public Health Director Dr. José Montero said in the release.
“As we have said this investigation is ongoing and additional testing may be necessary to help all patients who may have been infected. While the risk of exposure to this newly identified group of patients is very low, we want to be take every measure to protect the public and so we are recommending that they come in to be tested,” Montero added.