Houston Healthcare Hepatitis Investigation | News
According to the Associated Press, a federal prosecutor in New Hampshire says he expects to bring more charges against a former hospital technician accused of infecting patients with Hepatitis C.
13WMAZ's Jennifer Moulliet explains that the technician also worked at Houston Medical Center.
According to a press release, David Kwiatkowski was a former contract employee at Houston Medical Center.
Kwiatkowski was arrested Thursday at a hospital in Massachusetts.
Officials in New Hampshire say Kwiatkowski was engaging in drug diversion and reusing syringes on patients. They're accusing him of infecting thirty people with Hepatitis C.
13WMAZ asked Joseph Perz, an Epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, to explain Drug Diversion.
"Drugs that a healthcare worker obtains that they're not authorized to have and an example of that would be narcotics in a healthcare facility if those were stolen for the personal use of a healthcare worker that's a prime example of diversion in healthcare." explains Perz.
Kwiatkowski worked in at least eight different states and at Houston Medical Center for six months, between October 2010 and March 2011, in the Cardiac Cath Lab. Officials at the hospital say he did not have access to their medication system and they're actively identifying any patients who may have come in contact with Kwiatkowski.
Chief Executive Officer, Cary Martin, issued this statement: "The health of our patients, as well as our employees, is of the utmost concern to us and we are taking a proactive approach to ensure the safety of our employees and those in our community."
In the next two weeks Houston Medical Center plans to send out certified letters to those patients letting them know what the next step will be.
13WMAZ spoke with Dr. Harold Katner, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Mercer University. He says medication to treat Hepatitis C has improved over the years.
"With the newer drugs you can cure it. I mean it's not like HIV that's a retrovirus that sits in your DNA, this thing, now not everybody responds but the vast majority of people depending on the type of Hepatitis C virus some of the newer medications some are already available some will be available soon can completely clear the body of the virus." says Katner.
But New Hampshire's Public Health Director, Dr. Jose Montero, says the treatment for Hepatitis C is expensive and not everyone responds to it.
"Long treatment, close to a year for US patients because of the type of strains we see in this country. More than $30,000 a year that treatment. And not everybody gets cured. When you have the virus 10 or 20 years without knowing, certainly a lot of damage is done." explains Montero.
Doctor Montero says they're testing thousands of people for the virus.
According to court documents, Kwiatkowski has denied stealing drugs.