A traveling medical technician was sentenced Monday to 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers and infecting dozens of patients in multiple states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes.

"I don't blame the families for hating me," David Kwiatkowski said after hearing about 20 statements from people he infected and their relatives. "I hate myself."

Kwiatkowski, 34, was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital in 2011.

He had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.

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Since his arrest last year, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.

US Attorney John Kacavas said the sentence "ensures that this serial infector no longer is in a position to do harm to innocent and vulnerable people."

Kwiatkowski admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. He pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges.

Before he was sentenced, Kwiatkowski stood and faced his victims, saying he was very sorry and that his crimes were caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

He told investigators he had been stealing drugs since at least 2003 and swapping syringes since at least 2008.

"There's no excuse for what I've done," he said. "I know the pain and suffering I have caused."

The victims spoke angrily and tearfully of the pain that Kwiatkowski had inflicted by giving them hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver disease and chronic health problems. Authorities say the disease played a role in one woman's death.

"You may only be facing drug charges, but make no mistake, you are a serial killer," said Kathleen Murray, whose mother was infected in Baltimore and was too ill to travel to New Hampshire for the sentencing.

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Prosecutors said Kwiatkowski deserved 40 years for creating a "national public health crisis," putting a significant number of people at risk and caused substantial physical and emotional harm to a large number of victims.

Assistant US Attorney John Farley called Kwiatkowski's actions "exceedingly callous" and "unbelievably cruel" and noted that Kwiatkowski could have stolen painkillers without exposing his patients to hepatitis C.

In all, 32 patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania.

Donald Page, who was infected with hepatitis C in hospital, leaves court after testifying against David Kwiatkowski. Photo / AP
Donald Page, who was infected with hepatitis C in hospital, leaves court after testifying against David Kwiatkowski. Photo / AP

Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona and Georgia.

Two of the 16 charges stem from the case of Eleanor Murphy, a Kansas woman who has since died. Authorities say hepatitis C played a contributing role.

-AP