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Healthcare Worker Responsible for Dozens of Hepatitis C Illnesses Issues Guilty Plea

Dec 24, 2013

A New Hampshire healthcare worker who is blamed for infecting dozens of hospital patients with hepatitis C has pled guilty to a number of charges.

David M. Kwiatkowski, a former healthcare worker at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, just pled guilty to product tampering and diverting and obtaining the drug, Fentanyl, according to The Albany Tribune. His actions led to 45 illnesses across multiple states, including one death from hepatitis C infection, according to a special report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Kwiatkowski, 34, was sentenced to 39 years in federal prison, three years of post-release supervision, a $1,600 special assessment, and a nearly $25,000 restitution fee, according to The Albany Tribune. He worked as a health care technician at a number of Michigan medical facilities from 2003 through 2007, ultimately becoming a so-called “traveling” radiology technician. He worked in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia, and New Hampshire.

During his employment, Kwiatkowski stole Fentanyl-filled syringes meant for patients, replacing the stolen syringes with syringes he stole from prior procedures that he refilled with saline. He injected himself with the drug, all while knowing that he had tested positive for hepatitis C, The Albany Tribune reported. Meanwhile, patients expecting pain medication received hepatitis C-infected saline instead.

According to the FBI, Kwiatkowski told an interrogator, “I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this,” The Albany Tribune wrote. Apparently, although the source of his disease remains unknown, he is known to have learned of his diagnosis in June 2010.

Hepatitis C is a viral liver disease that can cause inflammation of the liver and can lead to chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, or cancer of the liver. The virus is spread by contact with infected body fluids; no vaccine exists for hepatitis C, which can be fatal. Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication.

Kwiatkowski worked in about 18 facilities in at least eight states. His Fentanyl scam was discovered at Exeter Hospital in May 2012 and sparked a huge public health investigation that led to the testing of at least 12,000 people. A total of 32 patients treated at Exeter Hospital; six treated at Hays Medical Center in Kansas; six treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland; and one treated at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, have all tested positive for the same hepatitis C strain that has been genetically linked to Kwaitkowski. Another illness tied to Kwaitkowski was transmitted from an Exeter Hospital victim to an intimate partner, according to The Albany Tribune.

Kwiatkowski pled guilty to eight counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and eight counts of tampering with a consumer product; 14 of the charges were initiated in New Hampshire and two were transferred from the District of Kansas, The Albany Tribune reported. The sentence is believed to be the highest ever received for this type of crime.

Blood borne diseases maybe transmitted when an infected person is given a shot and either the needle or syringe is re-used; microscopic backflow can enter the syringe from the contaminated person, entering the medicine vial. This places other patients receiving that medication at risk from the needle, the syringe, and the drug vial.

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