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Hepatitis C cases linked to N.H. hospital worker rise

CONCORD, N.H. — Five more people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that a former traveling hospital worker is ­accused of spreading through tainted needles, bringing the total to 44 in four states.

David Kwiatkowski, whom prosecutors have called a ‘‘serial infector,’’ is charged with stealing painkillers from New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-­filled syringes tainted with his blood. He pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 14 federal drug charges and has been in jail since his arrest in July.

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Thirty-two New Hampshire patients have tested positive for the same strain of the liver-destroying disease carried by Kwiatkowski, and a dozen other cases have emerged in some of 18 hospitals in seven states where he previously worked.

Maryland health officials announced four new cases Friday, all involving patients at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Kwiatkowski worked from July 2009 to January 2010.

The previously reported cases include one from the Baltimore VA Medical Center and six from Hays Medical Center in Kansas. Another case has been confirmed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania, a hospital spokeswoman said this week.

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