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Former Exeter Hospital employee arrested as ‘serial infector’

Federal officials have arrested David Matthew Kwiatkowski and charged him in connection with the hepatitis C infection of at least 30 patients who were treated in Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab.

The 32-year-old worked as a medical technician at the hospital from April 2011 to May 2012, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s office in Concord, N.H. He is accused of taking an anesthetic called Fentanyl, said to be more powerful than morphine. In his role, he should not have had direct access to the drug, but an empty syringe and several needles were found in his vehicle, the release said.

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“The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital,” US Attorney John P. Kacavas said in the release. “With his arrest, we have eliminated the menace this ‘serial infector’ posed to public health and safety.”

Kwiatkowski, originally from Michigan, has worked in at least seven states as a traveling technician and is thought to have been infected with hepatitis since June 2010. Investigators said he stole Fentanyl from at least one other hospital in another state, taking a syringe from an operating room and replacing it with one filled with another liquid. The press release did not say where that incident occurred or which states he has worked in.

He was arrested Thursday morning at a hospital in Massachusetts, where he was undergoing treatment, the release said. He has been charged with obtaining controlled drugs by fraud and tampering with a consumer product.

An affidavit filed in a federal court in New Hampshire Thursday alleged that he was observed leaving the Exeter lab during procedures and attending procedures on his off days.

“One witness claimed that he appeared to be ‘on something’ while another witness claimed to have observed ‘track marks’ on his arms,” the release said.

Kwiatkowski told investigators that he did not know he was infected until May of this year. Hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage over time. At least 30 people have tested positive for the same strain of the virus with which Kwiatkowski is infected and all were treated at the hospital during the time he worked there.

The US attorney’s office is working with public health officials in other states in which Kwiatkowski worked and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address “possible public health implications.”

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
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