Australia reported its second swine flu-related death on Tuesday, the third for the Asia-Pacific region while Malaysia closed a school in efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
The 35-year-old Australian victim, who had a range of medical problems, died in a hospital in the southern city of Melbourne on Saturday after seeking medical help for a flu-like illness on Friday, said Dr. Rosemary Lester, acting chief health officer for Victoria state.
Swabs were taken and later tested positive for swine flu, she said.
Lester said that in most Australian cases, the virus remains a mild illness from which many people recover without any medical treatment.
"However, we know that for people with chronic medical conditions, influenza can be severe," she said.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon told Parliament the man was believed to have died from "respiratory failures." "Unfortunately, as this disease continues to spread through the community, it is inevitable that we will experience more cases with severe outcomes, potentially also resulting in death," Roxon said.
On Friday, a 26-year-old man with multiple ailments including swine flu died in a hospital in the southern city of Adelaide. Authorities are not certain in either case that swine flu was the cause of death.
Australia had 2,733 confirmed cases of swine flu by Tuesday, 1,407 of those in Victoria, where Melbourne is the state capital. The only other country in the region to report a death of someone with swine flu has been the Philippines, where officials said Monday that a 49-year-old woman had died.
Malaysia's Health Ministry said it had closed a third school on Tuesday because of swine flu fears as 10 new cases were reported. The new patients raised the total number of victims to 68. Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said a private school was shut after an infected student who had returned from Australia transmitted the virus to another student.
Two other primary schools remained closed this week. Liow said the 10 new cases of swine flu included eight who caught it abroad. All are in stable conditions. Newnd Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall warned Parliament on Tuesday that swine flu infection "will become very widespread" in coming months in New Zealand, but it will be mild and the country has the medical resources to handle it.
As the virus infects more people, hospitals will become overloaded and pressure on hospital beds could see some surgeries delayed, he said.
New Zealand confirmed another 61 cases of swine flu on Tuesday, taking to 364 the tally of cases nationwide.
The World Health Organization has declared a flu pandemic. As of Monday, it said more than 52,000 cases had been reported worldwide with 231 deaths, mostly in Mexico and the United States.