CONCORD, N.H. - Hospitals across the country recommended hepatitis C testing for about 7,900 patients last summer after a traveling medical worker was accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with tainted syringes in New Hampshire. But five months later, nearly half of those who were possibly exposed to the liver-destroying disease in other states have yet to be tested.
Described by prosecutors as a "serial infector," David Kwiatkowski is accused of stealing syringes of the powerful painkiller fentanyl from the cardiac catheterization lab at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his own blood. In jail since his arrest in July, he pleaded not guilty to 14 federal drug charges earlier this month and is expected to go to trial next fall.
Before April 2001, when he was hired in New Hampshire, Kwiatkowski worked as a traveling cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states, moving from job to job - despite being fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft.
In this Aug. 11, file photo, employees of the New Hampshire state health department set up a temporary clinic at the middle school in Stratham, N.H., to test hundreds of people for hepatitis C related to an outbreak at nearby Exeter Hospital.
Thirty-two people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski carries, along with six in Kansas, five in Maryland and one in Pennsylvania. At least 3,700 people outside New Hampshire have yet to be tested, hospitals and public health officials told The Associated Press.
For example, in Michigan, where Kwiatkowski grew up and started his career, about 2,300 patients at five hospitals were notified that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C by Kwiatkowski. As of early December, only about 500 had gone in for testing, none of whom were diagnosed with a strain linked to the New Hampshire outbreak, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
In Pennsylvania, 2,280 patients at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian were notified that they should get tested, but only 840 have, one of whom was diagnosed with a matching strain of hepatitis C.