Report: Accused Hepatitis C infector may have spread virus 2 years earlier than previously reported

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Hampshire shows David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter, N.H., Hospital, arrested at a hospital in Massachusetts where he is receiving medical treatment. Kwiatkowski, originally from Michigan, was charged Thursday, July 19, 2012, with causing a hepatitis C outbreak involving at least 30 patients who were treated at Exeter Hospital's cardiac catheterization lab.
AP Photo/U.S. Attorney's Office
David Kwiatkowski
An undated photo of David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital in N.H., arrested for causing a hepatitis C outbreak involving at least 30 patients.
AP Photo/U.S. Attorney's Office

(CBS/AP) A New Hampshire attorney says his client, a Vietnam war veteran, contracted hepatitis C from a traveling hospital technician two years earlier than investigators allege he began spreading the disease.

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Portsmouth attorney Michael Rainboth represents five patients who were allegedly infected by medical technician David Kwiatkowski, who's been charged with tampering with needles and infecting at least 31 people.

Rainboth told the Portsmouth Herald that his newest client, a 65-year-old veteran, was infected in 2008 at the Baltimore VA Medical Center and that the hospital is taking responsibility. Prosecutors had previously said the earliest evidence that Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C was in 2010.

"They told my client that Kwiatkowski was there for both procedures," Rainboth said. "They're not sure which procedure (spread the disease), but they're taking full responsibility."

The hospital on its website says 168 patients had procedures involving Kwiatkowski in 2008, and that it's offered free hepatitis testing to 51 of them.

In July, federal prosecutors indicted the 33-year-old former lab technician on being a "serial infector"of hepatitis C after he allegedly injected himself with painkillers and returning the needles back containing another type of solution, where they were then used on patients.

Kwiatkowski has denied using drugs while witness statements have suggested he sometimes appeared intoxicated at work.

Altogether, 31 people, including Kwiatkowski and patients at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, have tested positive for the same strain of the disease since the investigation began in late May. Hepatitis C testing has been ongoing at  several hospitals in as many aseight states where the traveling technician worked.

Hepatitis C may take decades to cause liver damage and other health problems so some people infected may not realize they have the disease. In August, theCenters for Disease Control and Preventionencouraged all baby boomers to get a one-time test for the blood-borne virus for that reason.