July 20, 2012
A traveling hospital technician accused of infecting 30 people with hepatitis C virus (HCV) at a hospital in New Hampshire had worked in at least six states, US Attorney John Kacavas said Thursday as he announced the man's arrest.
Authorities believe the HCV-infected former Exeter Hospital employee injected the painkiller Fentanyl from syringes intended for patients. They said he then put another liquid, such as saline, into the syringes, which were used later on patients. A search of the suspect's vehicle turned up an empty Fentanyl syringe and several needles.
Authorities declined to name any of the other states in which the suspect worked, but said they were not clustered in any one part of the country. In New Hampshire, he worked at Exeter Hospital's cardiac catheterization lab from April 2011 through this May before being dismissed.
"We are closer to the beginning of our investigation than the end," Kacavas said. "This serial infector has been contained, and the menace he posed to the public health and safety has been removed."
Officials believe the technician also stole drugs from a hospital operating room in another state. Evidence suggests he was infected since at least June 2010, Kacavas said. New Hampshire is working with CDC, law enforcement, and public health departments in other states where the technician worked, he said.
"I'm unaware of such a scheme with such reach," said Kacavas. "This one has the potential for very far-reaching implications."
So far, 31 people, including the suspect, have tested positive for the same strain of HCV since the Exeter investigation began in late May. The technician was arrested at a hospital in Massachusetts, where he was receiving treatment. When he is well enough, he will be transferred to New Hampshire to face federal drug charges.