A week after a traveling medical technician was charged with causing a hepatitis C outbreak in New Hampshire, a dozen hospitals in seven other states including New York were still scrambling Thursday to identify possible victims.
As officials filled in the gaps on David Kwiatkowski's resume, a hospital official in Arizona said he had been fired from her facility in April 2010, after he was found unresponsive in a men's locker room with syringes and needles. He was treated at the hospital, and tests showed he had cocaine and marijuana in his system, said Monica Bowman, chief executive officer of the Arizona Heart Hospital.
Kwiatkowski, 33, is accused of stealing anesthetic drugs from Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire and contaminating syringes used on patients. Thirty of the patients have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that he carries.
Testing has been recommended for about 4,700 people in New Hampshire alone, and officials are still determining who should be tested elsewhere. Health officials have confirmed that Kwiatkowski also worked in Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania before being hired in New Hampshire in April 2011.
U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said Thursday that while other health care workers have been prosecuted for diverting drugs and infecting patients, this case stands apart.
"Because of his employment as a traveler, working for agencies and being sent around the country to various states, it really has tentacles all over the country," he said. "Its scope is unprecedented and scary."
Kwiatkowski told authorities he did not steal or use drugs. He said he learned he had hepatitis C in May, but authorities say there is evidence that he was diagnosed as early as June 2010.
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