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First death of swine flu reported in U.S.

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

The first death in the United States from swine flu was reported today, as the number of confirmed and suspected human cases worldwide continues to rise following an outbreak in Mexico.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said on Wednesday that swine flu has been ruled as the cause of death of a 23-month-old child in Texas. It is believed to be the first death outside Mexico.

Dr. Richard Besser, the CDC's acting director, confirmed the death during an interview with CNN on Wednesday. No further details about the child or the circumstances of the death were provided.

"As a pediatrician and a parent, my heart goes out to the family," Besser said.

Besser said the CDC expected the U.S. would see more infections and deaths based on the spread of the virus in Mexico.

American officials said Tuesday that 64 human cases had been confirmed in the United States.

It's too soon to say if the death suggests the virus is spreading more aggressively in the U.S., he said.

Meanwhile, three cases have been confirmed in Germany, the country's disease control centre said Wednesday.

The German cases include two women, ages 22 and 37, and a man in his 30s, said officials with the Robert Koch Institute said Wednesday. Two of the patients are from towns in Bavaria. The third is from Hamburg.

Officials said all three patients recently returned from trips to Mexico, where the disease was first detected and has now been found in several other countries, including Canada, where the total number of human cases increased to 13 on Tuesday.

More confirmed cases in EuropeBritain and Spain are the other European countries that have confirmed human cases.

There are five other suspected cases in Germany, and they're believed to be in Bavaria and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to officials.

Polish health officials reported Wednesday that they are also awaiting test results for two suspected cases.

New Zealand confirmed more cases on Wednesday, bringing its total to 14. Officials said all patients were responding well to treatment with antiviral drugs and were in voluntary quarantine at home.

There are 44 other possible cases in New Zealand, said Dr. Julia Peters, a senior regional health official, and testing is underway.

In Australia, more than 100 people with flu symptoms are being tested for possible swine flu, according to officials.

Asia escapes illness so farOn Tuesday in Canada, where 13 Canadians have been confirmed with mild cases of the illness, new cases were reported in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

There have not yet been any confirmed cases in Asia, where governments have taken strict precautions at airports.

Late Tuesday, authorities in Mexico said the number of suspected swine flu cases had risen to 2,498, with 159 suspected deaths and 26 confirmed deaths since mid-April.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that laboratory tests have confirmed 112 cases in seven countries. The figures do not yet include the cases announced in Germany.

WHO not calling for travel restrictionsDr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director general, said Tuesday that agency officials have been struggling to keep up with media reports on new confirmed cases.

Fukuda said the WHO still cannot offer any explanation why cases of the infection in Mexico are more severe than in other countries. He also advised countries to "take the opportunity to prepare for a pandemic."

The UN health body is holding an emergency scientific review of the flu outbreak in Geneva on Wednesday to collect information about how the disease spreads and how it can be treated.

The WHO has raised its alert level to 4 — out of a possible 6 — but has not called for travel restrictions or border closures. However, several cruise lines, tours and flights destined for Mexico have been cancelled, including several operated by Air Canada, WestJet and Transat.

Health authorities are trying to keep the threat of the swine flu in context, reminding people that flu deaths are common around the world.

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