Fourth patient from HaysMed tests positive for hepatitis C
By RANDY GONZALES
Another patient at Hays Medical Center has tested positive for hepatitis C, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Friday.
In the first KDHE update since Aug. 27, there now are four HaysMed patients who have tested positive for a strain of the virus closely related to that carried by David Kwiatkowski, a former contract worker at the hospital. Kwiatkowski, who worked in the catheterization lab at HaysMed from May 24, 2010, to Sept. 22, 2010, was arrested July 19 in New Hampshire.
Kwiatkowski was 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, of whom at least 32 tested positive for hepatitis C (HCV).
Testing for the hepatitis C virus 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 closely related 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.
KDHE determined 474 patients at HaysMed potentially were exposed. Of that number, 58 were identified as deceased from various causes prior to testing. Of the remaining 416 patients available for testing, 385 have submitted specimens. There have been 369 negative test results as of Friday. 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.