Swine flu infections in the Asia-Pacific mounted Saturday, a day after a 26-year-old Australian man with the virus died although authorities say it may have been other serious ailments that killed him.
The Aboriginal man who died Friday could be the first person in the region to be claimed by swine flu, which has swept rapidly across nations here but without fatal impact.
Fiji reported its first confirmed case, following Bangladesh, Laos and Papua New Guinea. Infections continued to rise sharply in Thailand, where most of the patients are school students. China confirmed 32 more infections, bringing its tally to 329 cases, and Malaysia confirmed seven more, bringing its total to 42.
The World Health Organization declared swine flu a pandemic last week. As of Friday, it said more than 44,000 cases had been reported worldwide, with 180 deaths, mostly in Mexico and the United States.
The Australian who died in a hospital in the southern city of Adelaide came from a remote desert community. Experts say his case further highlights the gap in health standards between the impoverished indigenous Aborigines and other Australians.
The man, who was not named, had been in hospital with multiple chronic ailments, which authorities have declined to identify. That has raised doubts about whether swine flu was the cause of death. He was diagnosed with the virus on Thursday.
"Whilst this is the first recorded death in Australia of a person who had swine flu, it is unclear whether that was a direct or contributing cause to the death," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.
Australia has recorded the highest tally of swine flu cases in the region, reaching 2,376 on Saturday. Roxon said swine flu remained mild in Australia and that most people infected made rapid and full recoveries.
Fiji became the third South Pacific island nation to confirm its first infection this week, following Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
A 36-year-old man tested positive a few days after returning to Fiji from the Australian city of Melbourne, Fijian health official Josaia Samuela told the Fiji Times newspaper.
He took the test Thursday after family members in Melbourne tested positive for the virus.
Bangladesh on Friday confirmed its first case: a 19-year-old man who had recently returned from the US, the Health Ministry said in a statement. It said he was being treated and his family members were also under observation.
A 27-year-old Australian visitor has been confirmed as the first case of the virus in Laos, the official Khaosan Pathet Lao agency reported. The unidentified Australian has been quarantined but does not need hospitalization, the report said.
Thailand's Public Health Ministry confirmed 73 new cases on Saturday, bringing the country's total to 662, about half of them in Bangkok.
Senior official Prat Boonyavongvirot said the majority of the cases nationwide were school students. Infections have been found at 79 schools and universities, prompting authorities to temporarily close dozens of schools for disinfecting.
India's Health Ministry late Friday confirmed six new cases, bringing the country's total to 50. So far 16 people have been discharged from government hospitals after being treated for the illness, it said.