N.H. hepatitis outbreak causes concern in other states

A former traveling hospital lab technician may have put hundreds or thousands of patients at risk after contracting hepatitis C and allegedly tampering with consumer products.

David Kwiatkowski, a Michigan native who worked at the Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, allegedly injected himself with painkillers meant for patients and left the syringes to be reused.

Kwiatkowski was arrested in connection with allegedly spreading hepatitis, obtaining controlled substances through fraudulent measures and tampering with consumer products, CNN reports.

Thirty patients at Exeter have been diagnosed with the same hepatitis C strain that Kwiatkowski has.

Kwiatkowski worked as a traveling medical technician on a contract basis for hospitals in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Maryland, Kansas, Georgia and Arizona over the past five years. The states are concerned that the outbreak could spread beyond New Hampshire as a result.

State authorities want to test patients who may have come into contact with Kwiatkowski to ensure they haven't contracted the disease. An investigation into the former lab tech has determined he tested positive for the disease as early as June 2010.

"There is an extremely small chance that anyone will be found to have been infected with a hepatitis C strain that is genetically linked to Kwiatkowski outside of the Cardiac Catheterization Unit," Exeter Hospital said, according to CNN. "However, as we continue to learn about Kwiatkowski's history in other states from the ongoing criminal investigation, and out of an abundance of caution, Exeter Hospital supports the (health department's) decision to offer expanded testing to patients treated in these two other areas even though Kwiatkowski had no formal role supporting procedures in those areas."

According to the Mayo Clinic, hepatitis C is one of the most serious of hepatitis viruses, often going undetected until liver damage is revealed.