A cruise ship with 2,000 passengers aboard has had its voyage cut short and will head to an Australian port for medical help after three crew members were diagnosed Thursday with swine flu, a health official said. It was the second time that people have contracted swine flu on the ship.
The luxury ship left Monday on a 10-day cruise from Sydney to Australia's northeastern tropical waters over the Great Barrier Reef, just hours after returning from a trip on which several people complained of flu-like symptoms.
Twenty-four passengers and crew on that cruise have now been found to have swine flu. The first case was not confirmed until after the ship was allowed to sail again with a new group of passengers.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon said three crew members on board the ship, the P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn operated by Carnival Corp., tested positive for the virus Thursday. Two sick passengers were tested and cleared of swine flu.
That news comes as the number of swine flu cases in the country more than doubled from 67 Wednesday to 147 late Thursday.
The infected crew members aboard the ship have been isolated from passengers since early in the cruise and have been treated with an antiviral medication, Roxon said.
"It may not be necessary for there to be a quarantine arrangement," Roxon told reporters.
The ship will now dock Saturday in Brisbane, where passengers will be examined by public health experts and some will leave the ship. It will continue south to Sydney by Monday, three days ahead of schedule.
The interrupted vacation left passengers disappointed and fearing for the health of their families.
"Everyone on board's very disappointed that we're not stopping at our proposed destinations, but obviously the threat has escalated and they don't want to take any risks," passenger David Gair told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio by telephone.
Bevan Wagstaff said he was desperate to get his daughter and pregnant wife away from the virus threat.
"The only word I could use at the moment would be devastation," Wagstaff told Nine Network news by telephone.
"My wife is midway through her pregnancy; she is absolutely distraught," he added.
The virus has sickened more than 13,000 people in 48 countries and been linked to more than a 100 deaths worldwide, with the majority of the fatalities in Mexico.
Source: AP News