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Hepatitis outbreak on Statfjord C

June 25, 2000, 23:00 CEST

Three cases of the highly infectious hepatitis A illness have been established on Statoil's Statfjord C platform in the North Sea

In addition, two other crew on the installation are possibly infected as well as one person on Statfjord B and one on Gullfaks C. All these cases served on Statfjord C during May, and have now been sent ashore.

"We're uncertain about the extent of this outbreak, but expect further cases to appear," says Reidunn Ulland von Brandis, the responsible medical officer on Statfjord.

She says that the outbreak of the viral infection has been reported to the chief medical officer for Rogaland county – which embraces Stavanger – and the National Institute for Public Health.

In consultation with these authorities, Statoil has initiated extensive hygiene measures on the affected installations. Everyone on Statfjord C is being given appropriate medication.

Hepatitis A usually takes the form of an uncomplicated influenza or intestinal infection with fever. According to Dr von Brandis, however, it can occasionally have serious consequences.

Found in the faeces of infected persons, the virus is spread by person-to-person contact – primarily via the hands – or indirectly via food or water.

The delay between infection and symptoms is two-seven weeks, and those affected are more infectious before they show signs of illness.

Symptoms include listlessness, reduced appetite, nausea, headache, muscular pain and stomach ache. Some people also get a yellow skin and white eyes.

"Since this disease is so infectious, it's important to take preventive measures at an early stage in order to halt further transmission," says Dr von Brandis.

"The most important steps in this context are good personal hygiene, and particularly thorough washing of the hands.