June 2, 2009 / 8:22 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 2-Man is first to die in Chile from H1N1 flu - govt

(Updates number of confirmed cases, adds minister quote)

SANTIAGO, June 2 (Reuters) - A Chilean man has died from H1N1 flu, Chile’s government said on Tuesday, the first death in the South American country from the new virus that has killed more than 100 people worldwide.

Chilean health ministry officials said the government had now confirmed 360 other cases of H1N1. Six people are in serious condition.

“Today we have confirmed the first case of the death of a patient due to human flu (H1N1),” Health Minister Alvaro Erazo told a news conference.

Chile’s first victim, 37-year-old Fernando Vera Maldonado, died in the southern city of Puerto Montt in the early hours of Monday.

The flu has spread fast in Chile, where temperatures are falling ahead of the onset of the Southern Hemisphere winter. Many patients are children with mild cases.

The spread of H1N1 flu in Australia, Britain, Chile, Japan and Spain has nudged the world closer to a pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

The new flu — a mixture of swine, bird and human viruses — remains most prevalent in North America but has infected nearly 19,000 people in 64 countries, according to the WHO’s latest toll, which tends to lag behind national figures but is considered more reliable.

Before the Chilean death was confirmed, the WHO had put the global death toll from H1N1 at 117. Most of those killed have been in Mexico. (Reporting by Simon Gardner, Manuel Farias and Rodrigo Martinez; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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