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N.H. Hospital Lab Tech Gets 39 Years In Hepatitis C Case

A former lab technician at a New Hampshire hospital, who prosecutors say infected at least 46 people in four states with hepatitis C, was sentenced to 39 years in prison on Monday.

As NPR reported back in July, David Kwiatkowski crisscrossed the country as a medical technician and landed at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital.

"It was at Exeter that federal prosecutors say the 33-year-old began to divert syringes of the drug Fentanyl," NPR reported. "They say Kwiatkowski, who was arrested July 19, would inject himself with the painkiller, and then refill syringes with a saline solution. He is hepatitis C-positive, meaning those tainted needles might have spread the liver-damaging virus."

The Wall Street Journal reports that during his sentencing hearing, prosecutors said Kwiatkowski caused a "national public health crisis" and deserved 40 years in prison.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Linda Ficken, one of Kwiatkowski's victims, told the judge he should receive a maximum sentence.

"You have given us a potential death sentence," Ficken said.

The paper continues:

"Kwiatkowski agreed to serve a minimum 30 years in federal prison under the plea agreement. But the government sought a 40-year sentence for the man it calls a 'serial infector' whose chronic alcohol and narcotic abuse began while in high school in Michigan and continued right up until his July 19, 2012, arrest. He was drinking about a fifth of vodka a day while a staff employee at Exeter Hospital, court records say.

"U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas of New Hampshire acknowledged the higher term exceeds recommended guidelines, but is warranted given Kwiatkowski's actions resulted in one victim's death and inflicted widespread damage and infection — the full extent of which may never be known, the government claims.

"The government argued Kwiatkowski deserved the longer sentence because he learned he had hepatitis C in 2010, yet continued swapping off tainted syringes, knowing the risk of infection this posed. Kwiatkowski worked mainly as a traveling medical technician at hospitals in Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Hampshire."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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