Hospitals in at least eight states want to know how many hundreds or thousands of their patients have come in contact with a lab technician accused of spreading hepatitis C.
The man, David Kwiatkowski, has the disease, which can pass through contact with contaminated blood, most often via shared needles. Authorities say the Michigan native injected himself with painkillers meant for patients when he worked at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire and left the syringes for reuse.
He was arrested this month in connection with spreading the disease at Exeter and has been charged with obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. He is suspected of stealing fentanyl, a powerful analgesic that is substantially more potent than morphine, the affidavit said.
Thirty Exeter patients have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski has. Now, officials want to be sure that outbreak has not spread past New England.
Kwiatkowski, 33, worked as a traveling medical technician on a contract basis for hospitals in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania in the past five years, hospitals and health officials in those states confirmed.
Asked Wednesday whether anyone in the health care industry ever reported anything about Kwiatkowski, he said: "Many health care practitioners view drug diversion as a problem that requires treatment only. It does require treatment, but it's also incumbent on someone to report it to law enforcement authorities. This may be a big teaching moment for the industry."
Authorities in the states where Kwiatkowski worked want patients who may have come in contact with the man to be tested for the disease. Kwiatkowski told authorities he found out he had hepatitis C in May 2012, but further investigation revealed he tested positive for the disease in June 2010.
Hepatitis C is considered to be among the most serious of hepatitis viruses. It is typically asymptomatic, going undetected until liver damage shows up, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
New Hampshire's health department is asking that anyone who was a patient in Exeter's operating rooms and the intensive care unit between April 1, 2011, and May 25 of this year be tested.
Those are two areas that Kwiatkowski visited during his "routine duties to transport patients," Exeter Hospital said in a written statement. But it added that he "was not involved with procedures or patient care."
The hospital said "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."
"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."
Kacavas said his office interviewed employees at Exeter who said they had seen Kwiatkowski sweating profusely and with bloodshot eyes.
"One of them described him as unfit to provide medical care and his supervisor sent him home," Kacavas said. "He provided a plausible explanation for his condition, which was that he had been crying his eyes out because his aunt had died and he was an emotional wreck."
According to state and hospital officials, he worked in as a radiology technician and in cardiac catheterization labs in the following locations:
-- Oakwood Annapolis Hospital in Wayne, Michigan, January to September 2007;
-- Saint Francis Hospital, Poughkeepsie, New York, November 2007 to February 2008;
-- UPMC Presbyterian, Pittsburgh, March 2008 to May 2008;
-- Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, May 2008 to November 2008;
-- Southern Maryland Hospital, Clinton, Maryland, December 2008 to February 2009;
-- Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, July 2009 to January 2010;
-- Maryland General Hospital, Baltimore, January 2010 to March 2010;
-- Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, April 2010;
-- Hays Medical Center, Hays, Kansas, May 2010 to September 2010;
-- Houston Medical Center, Warner Robins, Georgia, October 2010 to March 2011.