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3 cruise ship crew catch swine flu off Australia

CANBERRA (AP) – A cruise ship with 2,000 passengers aboard has cut short a voyage and will head to an Australian port for medical help after three crew members were diagnosed Thursday with swine flu, a health official said. 

Health Minister Nicola Roxon also announced that Australia had ordered enough swine flu vaccination for 10 million people — almost half Australia's population. That comes as the number of swine flu cases in the country jumped from 67 Wednesday to 103 by mid-Thursday. 

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore confirmed its first swine flu infection Wednesday, a 22-year-old woman who reported symptoms after visiting New York. While in the Philippines, tests confirmed four more cases of the virus — including a 1-year-old girl who returned from the US and a 13-year-old boy who visited Hong Kong — raising the country's total to six. 

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. 

The swine flu cases on the Australian luxury liner Pacific Dawn were the ship's second flu outbreak in as many consecutive cruises from Sydney to Australia's northeastern tropical waters. 

An outbreak of 18 cases of the virus have been reported among passengers and crew of the first cruise that ended in Sydney on Monday. 

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The ship had been allowed to sail again from Sydney that same day on its current 10-day cruise with 2,000 new passengers on board before the first swine flu case from the previous cruise was confirmed. 

Roxon said that three crew members had tested positive for the virus Thursday from swabs sent to a laboratory in the east coast city of Brisbane, 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of the ship's current location off the Queensland state coast. 

Two sick passengers had also been tested and cleared of swine flu, she said. 

Roxon said the infected crew had been isolated from passengers since early in the cruise and had been treated with antiviral medication. 

"It may not be necessary for there to be a quarantine arrangement," Roxon told reporters. 

Roxon later told Parliament that the ship will 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 passengers have not set foot on land since leaving Sydney. A visit to the Whitsunday Islands on the Barrier Reef was canceled Wednesday pending the outcome of flu tests. A visit to the Port Douglas resort Friday has also been canceled. 

Passengers are still making the most of their vacation, which has been overshadowed by the swine flu scare from the start. 

Irene Burton, 60, told her daughter in Sydney in an e-mail from the ship that most of the passengers were well and enjoying themselves in the ship's bars, casino and swimming pools. 

"We are not overly concerned as we are well and so are 99 percent of passengers," Burton said in the e-mail published in Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald. 

A passenger from the first cruise, Margot Lloyd, said she had been unaware of any swine flu fears on board when she left the ship. 

"At the end of the trip, we were just let off the boat without being checked, got into taxis and were left to mingle with the public," Lloyd, who is in isolation in her Sydney home but has not been tested, told the newspaper. 

Roxon said she did not know whether the crew who tested positive for swine flu Thursday had also been on the previous cruise. 

She said the government has ordered 10 million courses of swine flu vaccine from Australian vaccines developer CSL Ltd., which could be available within months. 

Clinical trials of the experimental new vaccine were under way, she said.

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