Entries in Syringes (2)


Canceled Hepatitis C Tests Flame 'Serial Infector' Fears

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EXETER, N.H.) -- Testing of more than 3,000 people who may have been infected with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire by an alleged "serial infector" was canceled this weekend, leaving some former patients scared and angry.

Health officials cancelled the weekend testing clinic, even though they asked the former patients at Exeter Hospital to get tested, because they said the logistics were too much.

David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital, was indicted last week for allegedly infecting 31 people with hepatitis C at that hospital, but might have infected thousands of patients in at least 13 hospitals where he has worked.

Kwiatkowski had allegedly been stealing syringes of the anesthetic Fentanyl intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with another liquid-like saline, according to a statement from the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.

Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, according to the affidavit.

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"If he knew that he was infected and he put those needles back on the shelf, that is the definition of evil," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, told Good Morning America. "Anyone who was in those hospitals when he was working there is potentially at risk. We're talking tens of thousands of people."

Kwiatskowski, 32, was a temporary employee at Exeter Hospital who has worked in at least eight hospitals in 13 states, Besser said.

Exeter Hospital issued a press release this week, indicating that the state Department of Health and Human Services and its Division of Public Health Services have decided to expand hepatitis C testing to anyone who was a patient in one of the hospital operating rooms or the intensive care unit. Government health officials are urging about 6,000 patients to get tested in Exeter Hospital alone, according to the release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fresno's Illegal Needle Exchange Program Booms Despite Law

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) -- For 15 years, Dr. Marc Lasher has been hitting the streets of Fresno, Calif., on Saturday mornings in a school bus-turned-medical clinic, collecting used syringes and handing out sterile ones to addicts who need them.

And that's only a piece of it.  Lasher and his volunteer staff also provide basic medical care to addicts who visit the bus, and give out referral information for detox and treatment centers in the area.

"Addicts have a very unique set of problems, and need a lot of medical care," said Lasher, who is an addiction specialist and medical director of Aegis methadone clinic.  "We act as a portal to the health care system for a population that has fallen off the edge of the world."

Prejudice and shame dissuade many addicts from receiving standard care, Lasher said, and his belief in providing compassionate and respectful care while attempting to curb the transmission of deadly bloodborne illnesses, including HIV and hepatitis C, is enough to keep his mission going, despite the roadblocks that he has experienced in recent days.

While the program is technically illegal because it provides drug paraphernalia to the public, three years ago, Lasher and his crew struck a deal with Fresno government officials that allowed the needle exchange program to receive immunity from drug paraphernalia laws and provide care to addicts who needed it.

They have been able to provide care to addicts largely unbothered by police or government, but two weeks ago, the city officials withdrew their support of the traveling medical clinic.

"It's a philosophical question whether to give someone the tools to continue an illegal behavior," board supervisor Judy Case told the Fresno Bee.  "I just think providing needles to addicts is enabling."

Fresno has one of the largest injection drug user populations in the country, Lasher said, and the moral dilemma should not have a place in a decision to prevent HIV and hepatitis C.

"People are dying of HIV and hep C all the time," said Lasher.  "We can prevent that from happening.  We need to get the morals out of the way and present real health solutions and care about what's happening to these people."

Lasher is now seeking to override city government entirely.  Two new bills were presented to California Gov. Jerry Brown's office, and Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign or veto the bills, one of which would allow pharmacists and other medical personnel to hand out a limited amount of syringes without prescription.  The other would allow the California Department of Health to administer needle exchange programs when there is a potential public health risk, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio