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NH Hospital Employee Blamed for Infecting Dozens of Patients with Hepatitis C

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EXETER, N.H.) -- A New Hampshire hospital employee has been indicted for causing a Hepatitis C outbreak that infected 31 patients in the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab.

David Kwiatkowski, 32, was arrested and charged with acquiring a controlled substance by fraud and tampering with a consumer product with "reckless disregard" for the risk of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

"The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital," U.S. attorney John P. Kacavas said in a press release. "With his arrest, we have eliminated the 'serial infector' posed to public and health safety."

The controlled substance was Fentanyl, an anesthetic more powerful than morphine. Kwiatkowski had allegedly been stealing the Fentanyl syringes intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with another liquid like saline, according to the press release.

Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for Hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients, according to the affidavit.

Exeter Hospital employees discovered the outbreak in May 2012, prompting an investigation that spanned several local, state and federal government agencies, including the FBI, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

Investigators wrote that they suspect Kwiatkowski grabbed the loaded syringes when he brought lead aprons into the procedure room, an area he didn't need to be inside at all. They suspect Kwiatkowski then replaced the Fentanyl syringes with saline syringes that were tainted with his strain of Hepatitis C.

Kwiatkowski was known for erratic behavior and suspected of abusing controlled substances, according to the affidavit. Other hospital employees said he would often sweat through his scrubs and made frequent trips to the bathroom.

One employee told investigators she saw "fresh track marks" when she tried to draw his blood. Another told investigators he remembered seeing Kwiatkowski with, "a red face, red eyes and white foam around his mouth" during a shift at the lab.

Kwiatkowski also had a tendency to lie, employees told investigators. He told coworkers that he played baseball in college, and that his one-time fiancée died "under tragic circumstances," neither of which were true. He also once excused bloodshot eyes by saying he was crying all night about a dead aunt who never existed.

When his roommate inquired about the needles in his laundry, Kwiatkowski told her he had cancer and was being treated at Portsmouth Regional hospital, according to the affidavit. Investigators found no documentation to prove this.

Kwiatkowski, who does not yet have a lawyer, was arrested Thursday morning in Massachusetts, where he was being treated at a hospital. He faces up to 24 years in prison. Each offense could also result in a $250,000 fine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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