HaysMed hepatitis C cases up to 6
By RANDY GONZALES
In its first update since last month, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Wednesday test results for Hays Medical Center patients possibly exposed to hepatitis C.
KDHE added two more HaysMed patients who have tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C closely related to former contract worker David Kwiatkowski. That brings the total number of positive results to six out of 474 patients who could have been exposed. Kwiatkowski, 33, worked in the catheterization lab at HaysMed from May 24 to Sept. 22, 2010.
Kwiatkowski was arrested July 19 in New Hampshire and charged with illegally obtaining drugs and tampering with a consumer product. He is accused of stealing drugs from Exeter Hospital and contaminating syringes that were used on patients.
At least 32 patients tested positive for hepatitis C. Kwiatkowski's first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 3.
Testing for the hepatitis C virus possibly related to the strain carried by Kwiatkowski is a multi-stage process. Patients first are screened for HCV.
Those with a positive test are tested again to determine if they have an active HCV infection. Patients with an active infection are tested to determine if it is genetically related to other patients in New Hampshire and HaysMed in association with the outbreak.
KDHE said interpretation of whether an individual's HCV infection is related closely to the outbreak based on laboratory testing has limitations and should not be considered absolute. KDHE said the investigation is ongoing, and all information should be considered preliminary.
Of the HaysMed patients determined to be at risk for infection, 58 were identified as deceased from various causes prior to testing.
Of the remaining 416 patients available for testing, 391 (94 percent) have submitted specimens. There have been 374 negative test results as of Wednesday. Some specimens still are being processed.
Hepatitis C causes serious liver damage, including liver cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.
More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness.