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NSW: Cruise ship quarantined amids swine flu scare

23 May 2009 7:03 PM

SYDNEY, May 23 AAP - A cruise ship was quarantined for several hours on arrival in Sydney amid a swine flu scare.

Almost 2,000 passengers, and another 900 crew, were kept on the ship for more than five hours while another 2,000 passengers waiting to board were left to wait on the dock.

The Dawn Princess arrived at Darling Harbour at about 12pm (AEST) on Saturday, hours late due to poor weather conditions which have lashed Australia's east coast for the past week.

To make matters worse, health officials were called out and the ship was locked down before its 2,000 passengers could disembark and before the same number of people could board the ship for their ocean holiday.

Four passengers with mild influenza-like symptoms have been tested for swine flu.

All passengers and crew have been allowed to leave the ship but have been told to remain in isolation in Sydney until the test results are known.

The body of one passenger was removed from the ship in Sydney but authorities quickly scuttled rumours that the person died from swine flu.

Princess Cruises spokeswoman Sandy Olsen said the death was cardiac-related but could not confirm at what point during the ship's journey the person died.

A second passenger was taken by ambulance to a Sydney hospital but both Ms Olsen and NSW Health said they were not suffering from any respiratory illness.

The ship had just returned from a 35-night cruise in the Pacific Ocean and had stopped in the Hawaiian islands for three days in early May.

Two passengers who tested positive for influenza-A during the trip had recovered 10 days ago, Ms Olsen said, but the ship authorities were required to report the cases.

Health officials boarded the ship upon its arrival and an announcement was made, asking any passengers suffering from flu-like symptoms to come forward and be swabbed.

But it took until almost 6pm for authorities to announce that passengers onboard would be allowed to disembark and those waiting could board.

"It's very imminent - they've got the gangway down," Ms Olsen told AAP.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said four people were swabbed for swine flu and were allowed to disembark without quarantine.

But they were asked to stay in Sydney overnight and avoid other people until their test results came back late Saturday night or early Sunday.

"Passengers and crew have now disembarked the ship, have been provided with fact sheets and instructed to stay in isolation until tests results are known," Dr Chant said in a statement.

The ship was due to depart about 4pm on Saturday but weather delays and the temporary quarantine would mean the ship will not leave Sydney until late in the evening.