David Kwiatkowski, 34, was sentenced to 39 years in federal prison on Monday. Kwiatkowski was charged with infecting 45 patients with the Hepatitis C.Virus. Kwiatkowski was a traveling medical technician. He pleaded guilty to injecting numerous patients in hospitals around the country with disease contaminated syringes. Kwiatowski, who admits to a drug addiction, took syringes of powerful narcotics meant for the patients, injected himself with the narcotics, then replaced the contents with saline which he injected into the patients.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C. Virus (HCV). It is contagious and bloodborne, meaning that it is transmitted from person to person through contaminated blood and blood products. Mild cases of the disease are acute and can be treated. Unfortunately, the majority of people with HCV have the chronic, uncurable kind. It is estimated that 3.2 million people have chronic HCV and are not aware of it. In Kwiatkowski’s case he was aware of his infection yet he continued his deplorable actions, which is why many pushed for the 39 year sentence, as opposed to the 30 year sentence that was first proposed. His sentence will keep him in jail for the majority of his life.
Linwold Nelson is a 66 year old Vietnam War Veteran and one of those infected by Kwiatkowski. His son Linwold Nelson JR states that his father has become less affectionate with family members due to his fear that he will spread the disease to them. Linwold need not worry so much, HCV is spread mainly through “contaminated blood transfusions, blood products, organ transplants, contaminated syringes and injection drug use.” It is rare for the diseaseto be transmitted from an infected mother to her child or through sex with an infected partner, or sharing personal items with that person. It is not spread through eating utensils, breast feeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, sneezing, or through food or water. 80 percent of people infected with HCV do not initially display symptoms. Those who are symptomatic show with symptoms of “fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray colored feces, joint pain, and jaundice.”
Many people around the world are living with HCV, including stars like Pamela Anderson Lee and Natalie Cole. Unlike Hepatits B (HBV), there is no vaccine to prevent people from becoming infected with HCV. Hepatitis is actually a family of viral infections. Hepatitis A may resolve without treatment, but HBV and HCV can both be chronic. Though there are treatments for HCV, many of those infected with the disease do not benefit from it. During Kwiatkowski’s hearing about 20 of his victims delivered impact statements. One of who was 71 year old Linda Ficken. Ficken reportedly told Kwiatkowski, “you handed down to us a potential death sentence.” This is indeed true, since many of Kwiatkowski’s victims will die from complications of the disease. Complications of the disease include liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Kwiatkowski’s victims admit that the 39 year sentence delivered in this case gave them some closure, but it will not erase the fact that they must all now battle with Hepatitis C. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to develop means for preventing Hepatitis C and controlling it. WHO even organizes a World Hepatitis Days once a year on July 28th.
By Earnestine Jones