Swine flu ship is allowed to dock at Brisbane

Australia has invoked an emergency decree to allow a cruise ship with a suspected swine flu outbreak to dock at Brisbane as the number of A(H1N1) cases worldwide topped 15,500.


AFP - Australia on Saturday invoked an emergency decree to allow a cruise ship with a suspected swine flu outbreak to dock, as the number of A(H1N1) cases worldwide crossed the 15,500 mark.

Queensland health authorities declared a public health emergency after port officials in Brisbane refused to let the Pacific Dawn dock and release passengers. The number of confirmed cases in the state has passed 250.

The ship has been at the centre of a spike in the number of Australian swine flu cases after 2,000 passengers last weekend walked free despite a suspected swine flu outbreak on board.

Scores of guests have since tested positive for the virus, and are believed to be behind its rapid community spread, with cases jumping from 14 to 209 in just one week.

The Pacific Dawn was turned away from the Whitsunday Islands and northern tourist port of Cairns this week, after three crew fell ill with the A(H1N1) influenza with a fresh group of 2,000 passengers on board.

Officials have already tightened the rules applying to cruise ships docking in Sydney, treating them all as potential swine flu sites and allowing for passengers to be kept on board until they have been cleared.

P and O's owner Carnival Australia estimated the onboard swine flu outbreak would cost the company "many millions" in partial refunds.

Once emptied of passengers, the Pacific Dawn will be scrubbed and cleaned ahead of its next cruise.

Russia on Saturday advised its citizens not to travel to the Dominican Republic over swine flu fears after issuing similar advisories on the United States, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

"Officially, the authorities have confirmed two identified cases of A(H1N1) but we fear that in reality, the situation is very different," Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief sanitary inspector, told Interfax news agency.

Lebanon on Saturday confirmed three cases -- the country's first -- as Greece reported a fourth case: a young man who has returned from the United States.

On Friday, China confirmed the first case of swine flu involving a person infected inside the country. The death toll reached 99 Friday, with a new fatality each in the United States and Canada and two in Mexico.

But according to figures released by individual governments, the virus has now killed more than 110 people around the world. And in the hours after the WHO updated its figures, three countries announced their first cases.

Health officials in Estonia confirmed that they had detected the virus in a 29-year-old man who had returned from United States two days earlier.

And Hungary announced its first confirmed swine flu case: a Brazilian man living in New York who had come to the country on Wednesday.

Lebanon's Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh announced his country's first confirmed swine flu cases on Saturday.

"One Lebanese and two Canadians who arrived in Lebanon a week ago are suffering from swine flu. We put them in quarantine and the blood samples we have taken every day have proven to be positive," he said.

Khalifeh last month advised his fellow citizens to stop kissing -- a traditional Arab greeting -- as a way of avoiding swine flu.

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