Health Officials Warn Of Hepatitis C Scare, Urge Testing

    Clear and green syringe filled with drops of bloodSome patients should get tested for hepatitis C if they were treated at four local hospitals linked to a traveling health care worker accused of infecting patients with the virus, state officials recently announced.

    The suggestion comes as federal authorities this month charged Michigan native David Kwiatkowski, who is accused of injecting himself with stolen narcotics, contaminating syringes and infecting patients with the hepatitis C virus while working at a hospital in New Hampshire.

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    Thirty patients have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C as Kwiatkowski, 33, who has had the virus since at least June 2010.

    Besides Michigan, Kwiatkowski worked in Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania before being hired in New Hampshire in April 2011. He told officials he had hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that leads to inflammation of the liver and chronic health issues, in May. But evidence suggests he may have had it much longer.

    “Hepatitis C is a chronic condition that can damage the liver for many years without noticeable symptoms,” said Dean Sienko, interim chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “Our goal of recommending testing is to ensure the appropriate use of the modern medicine now available to prevent deaths from hepatitis.”

    Testing has been recommended for nearly 5,000 patients in New Hampshire, but Michigan Department of Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci was unable to estimate how many Michigan patients should be tested.

    Michigan’s investigation showed Kwiatkowski worked in six Michigan hospitals from 2003-07. Kwiatkowski at one time tested negative for hepatitis C, excluding patients from getting tested at two hospitals where he worked.

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