Swine Flu Alert on Australian Cruise Ship
SYDNEY – About 2,000 passengers from a cruise ship that docked in Sydney have been advised to quarantine themselves for a week in their homes or hotels after at least nine cases of swine flu were confirmed on board, officials said Tuesday.
The passengers disembarked on Monday after nine days cruising Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
By Tuesday, eight passengers and a crew member had tested positive for swine flu with more diagnoses expected, the New South Wales state government said in a statement.
A couple who married during the cruise, Kiralea and Nikki Campbell, and three relatives were among those who tested positive for the disease.
"We shouldn't have been allowed off the boat," said Kiralea Campbell, who spent six hours suffering from flu symptoms at a Sydney airport before flying 600 miles to their hometown of Gold Coast.
Health authorities were contacting and monitoring passengers who were unaware of the onboard illnesses and urging them to stay indoors for seven days, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.
The ship set sail Monday on another cruise with 2,000 passengers to the Great Barrier Reef using some of the same crew.
Ann Sherry, chief executive of the ship's operator Carnival Australia, said the crew were taking the antiviral Tamiflu as a precaution.
"All the crew have been given Tamiflu so ... that's a very comprehensive set of requirements and actions that we've taken," Sherry told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Chant rejected criticism from some passengers that the crew should not have been allowed to leave.
"I think that the public health measures we put in place were appropriate to the circumstances that we were confronted with," she said.
Prof. Robert Booy, head of the National Center for Immunization, Research and Surveillance, said health authorities were right to let the ship sail.
"They've dealt with a lot of cruise ship outbreaks in the last few years for different infections so to the best of my knowledge, they are doing absolutely the right thing," he told ABC.