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Hepatitis C outbreak started by lab technician

New Hampshire lab technician David Kwiatkowski has been accused of spreading hepatitis C by injecting himself with painkillers meant for hospital patients and leaving syringes for reuse.

Hepatitis C outbreakEnlarge
New Hampshire lab technician David Kwiatkowski has been accused of spreading hepatitis C by injecting himself with painkillers meant for hospital patients and leaving syringes for reuse. (Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images)

New Hampshire lab technician David Kwiatkowski has been accused of spreading hepatitis C by injecting himself with painkillers meant for hospital patients and leaving syringes for reuse.

Kwiatkowski, 33, who has hepatitis C, was arrested this month in connection with spreading the disease at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital and has been charged with obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product, according to CNN. He is suspected of stealing fentanyl, an analgesic more potent than morphine.

At least 30 Exeter patients have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski carries and the state is expanding its testing, as more cases are possible, reported the Associated Press. Only patients treated in the cardiac lab were initially asked to get tested for the disease, but testing has now been recommended for anyone who had surgery at Exeter or who was admitted to the intensive care unit from April 1, 2011, to May 25, 2012. The hospital said Kwiatkowski sometimes moved patients to operating rooms and the ICU, but wasn't involved in patient care or performing procedures.

Lawyer Domenic Paolini, who represents some of the infected patients, filed a first class action lawsuit against Triage Staffing, which first hired Kwiatkowski and placed him at hospitals throughout the country, including Exeter, according to WHDH News. Paolini insisted that if the staffing company had properly investigated Kwiatkowski, they would have seen that he was involved in a similar incident in 2008 at a hospital in a different state.

"He never should have been at Exeter in the first place," Paolini said of Kwiatkowski.

Court paperwork said Kwiatkowski was spotted stealing syringes and then later allegedly tested positive for fentanyl, according to WHDH.

More from GlobalPost: Hepatitis C now kills more people in the US than HIV, CDC says

"A hospital employee observed Mr. Kwiatkowski enter an operating room, lift his shirt, put a syringe in his pants," the documents said. "Three empty syringes bearing fentanyl labels were found on his person."

CNN also reported that Kwiatkowski worked as a traveling technician on a contract basis for hospitals in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland and New York in the past five years. New Hampshire US Attorney John P. Kacavas said he also worked in Pennsylvania.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120726/hepatitis-c-outbreak-started-lab-technician