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Many Still Untested for Hepatitis C After Tech’s Arrest

Associated Press (12/22/12) Holly Ramer

Despite the fact that 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, nearly half of those who were possibly exposed to the liver-destroying disease in other states have yet to be tested five months later. 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.

Kwiatkowski was fired a few weeks into his temporary job. Within days, Kwiatkowski was starting a new job at the Baltimore VA Medical Center, where one patient also has since been diagnosed with hepatitis C linked to Kwiatkowski. That facility, and two other Maryland hospitals where Kwiatkowski worked also have completed their testing, with no diagnosed cases of hepatitis C matching Kwiatkowski. But at a fourth, the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, four patients have recently been diagnosed with the strain of disease linked to Kwiatkowski. About 500 of the 1,567 patients notified by Johns Hopkins have yet to be tested, according to hospital spokeswoman Kim Hoppe. Kwiatkowski had been referred by a staffing company that assured Johns Hopkins that it had followed a vigorous vetting process, Hoppe says. He worked there for two 13-week stints, from July 2009 to January 2010.