CONCORD, New Hampshire — The hepatitis C outbreak associated with a former Exeter Hospital technician has spread beyond his patients to a person who is believed to have had sexual contact with one of them, state health officials said Thursday.
David Kwiatkowski, who is accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C through syringes tainted with his blood, is scheduled to face trial on 14 federal drug charges in January. He has pleaded not guilty.
Since his arrest in July, 32 patients in New Hampshire and a dozen people in other states have been diagnosed with the strain of hepatitis C — a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues — carried by Kwiatkowski.
A 33rd New Hampshire case has been confirmed, the Division of Public Health Services announced Thursday, but that person is believed to have been infected through sexual contact with one of the other infected individuals.
Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero said that while sexual transmission of hepatitis C is very uncommon, in this case, there were medical circumstances that increased the risk.
Kwiatkowski, who has been in jail since his arrest, is accused of stealing painkiller syringes from Exeter Hospital's cardiac catheterization lab and replacing them with saline-filled syringes that were later used on patients.
Before being hired in Exeter in April 2011, he worked at 18 hospitals in seven states, moving from job to job despite having been fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft.
One of Kwiatkowski's lawyers, Bjorn Lange, said Thursday that he would carefully review the new information. In April, a judge partially agreed with the defense team's request to delay the trial, given the complexity of the case and the fact that as federal public defenders, they will lose time when they have to take furlough days under the automatic budget cuts that began in March.
Defense attorneys had sought to delay the trial until April, but prosecutors and the judge were unwilling to move it beyond January.