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Swine flu, fear spread aboard cruise ship

Australia Swine Flu
The Pacific Dawn sails past the Sydney Opera House in Sydney. The ship will cut short a Great Barrier Reef voyage and head to a major Australian port after three crew members were found to have swine flu. James Morgan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Swine flu worries deepened across Asia on Friday as the virus appeared to spread from crew to passengers on a cruise ship off Australia, and China reported its first suspected case of local transmission.

The 2,000-passenger ship was diverted to a port in Queensland after the liner's owner said up to five passengers were suspected of being infected after an outbreak among the crew. The five will be tested.

"We are being extremely cautious in our testing arrangements for anybody who presents themselves with flu-like symptoms," P&O Cruises spokeswoman Ann Sherry told reporters.

The Pacific Dawn cut short a voyage on Australia's Great Barrier Reef after three crew members were confirmed Thursday to have the new and potentially fatal virus. P&O said all three had been aboard the same ship on a South Pacific cruise last week in which dozens of passengers were infected.

The cruise began in Sydney on Monday with the passengers unaware that scores of passengers from the previous cruise who had disembarked that day had flu symptoms.

"Our biggest problem is that we should never have left Sydney," former passenger Bevan Wagstaff told Ten Network television news on Friday in Queensland. Wagstaff and his wife were taken to shore late Thursday with their daughter, who needed treatment for a broken arm.

In Sydney, a New Zealand couple who caught swine flu on the previous cruise were evicted from a hotel after their infections were confirmed.

Health authorities had told passengers from outside Sydney to isolate themselves in hotels for a week rather than travel home and risk infecting others. But Sydney hotels now fear their presence is harming business.

"We're not expected to house people who subsequently show that they've got the disease and we're not expected to be hospitals," Australian Hotels Association chief executive Bill Healey told reporters.

The couple left with masked health officials, who relocated them, and did not speak to the media.

Australia's count of confirmed cases jumped by 60 on Friday to 207.

China, meanwhile, said it suspects the virus has been transmitted within the country for the first time.

A 24-year-old woman in the southern city of Guangzhou tested positive Thursday after developing a fever, the Chinese Health Ministry said on its Web site.

Before the latest case, there had been 13 confirmed cases of swine flu in mainland China as of Thursday. All caught the flu overseas.

Singapore's health ministry late Thursday said three more people there have contracted swine flu, a day after announcing the country's first case.

The Philippines announced Friday four more cases, bringing the nation's total to 14.