A traveling medical technician who is believed to have infected at least 39 people with hepatitis C through his use of stolen hospital drugs and syringes was indicted late Wednesday in New Hampshire on 14 new charges.
The technician, David Kwiatkowski, known as the "serial infector," was arrested in July and charged with tampering with a consumer product and illegally obtaining drugs, primarily fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic that is about 80 times more potent than morphine.
After a lengthy investigation that ranged over several states, he was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Concord, N.H., and charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs.
If convicted on the pending charges, Mr. Kwiatkowski, 33, faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of tampering with a consumer product and up to four years in prison for each count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. Each offense is also punishable by a fine of $250,000.
Mr. Kwiatkowski had pleaded not guilty to the original charges and remains in federal custody in New Hampshire.
Federal prosecutors said earlier this year that Mr. Kwiatkowski had engaged in a practice known as drug diversion, in which a hospital employee steals a new syringe and uses it self-inject a drug -- thus almost certainly contaminating it. The employee then refills the syringe with some other fluid and slips it back into place, whereupon an unsuspecting nurse uses it on a patient.
In announcing the indictment, John P. Kacavas, the United States attorney in New Hampshire, said that Mr. Kwiatkowski "used the stolen syringes to inject himself, causing them to become tainted with his infected blood, before filling them with saline and then replacing them for use in the medical procedure. Consequently, instead of receiving the prescribed dose of fentanyl, patients instead received saline tainted by Kwiatkowski's infected blood."
The problem was discovered after several patients in the cardiac catheterization lab at Exeter Hospital, where Mr. Kwiatkowski worked, tested positive for a specific strain of hepatitis C, a chronic disease that can lead to cancer and is a major reason for liver transplants. Mr. Kwiatkowski tested positive for the same strain, leading to the testing of thousands of patients in New Hampshire this summer.
The outbreak was one of the largest in recent history. The investigation has been complicated because Mr. Kwiatkowski had worked at 18 hospitals in seven other states (Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania) over the last decade. He was fired from at least two hospitals but was hired subsequently by four others.
Since Mr. Kwiatkowski's arrest, thousands of patients in the other states have been tested for hepatitis C. About 30 patients in New Hampshire, a half-dozen in Kansas and one in Maryland have tested positive for the same strain.
A report in August by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that syringes at Exeter Hospital were left unattended on medication carts by nurses in the cardiac catheterization lab, where Mr. Kwiatkowski worked most frequently.
Hospital officials have said that they received reports of concerns about Mr. Kwiatkowski but not that he was diverting drugs. A statement on the hospital's Web site said: "We understand that this has been a difficult time for our patients and the community. Our focus remains on all of our patients and while this situation has shaken the community, we will continue to do everything we can to restore the community's confidence by providing excellent care to the hundreds of patients who receive care within our health system each day."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.