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Official: NH Hospital Employee Misused Drugs, Causing Hepatitis C Outbreak

CONCORD, N.H. (CBS/AP) — New Hampshire's public health director says officials suspect an Exeter Hospital employee misusing drugs led to an outbreak of hepatitis C among patients who were treated at the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab.

Read: Exposed Patients Want Answers

Dr. Jose Montero said Wednesday that the ongoing investigation points toward drug diversion as a cause, which generally involves someone using a syringe to inject medication meant for someone else and then re-using the syringe on patients.

A total of 20 people, including a hospital worker, have been diagnosed with the same strain of the liver-destroying virus since the state began investigating the outbreak last month.

Montero would not comment on the specific employee or say whether law enforcement is involved.

Officials are now asking anyone treated at the lab since October 2010 to be tested.

An attorney representing four patients who have tested positive for Hepatitis C and one who is awaiting results, says Exeter Hospital should have had procedures in place to prevent the drug diversion.

"People are scared to death out there about this. They want to know what the source is," said attorney Mark Abramson. "Exeter Hospital either has the information and kept it from the public or they don't and they shouldn't be opening their doors to people who might be exposed."

WBZ-TV's Lauren Leamanczyk contributed to this report

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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