GUATEMALA CITY—A 12-year-old boy has become Guatemala's first fatality linked to swine flu, officials said, as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose by eight to 74.
Health Minister Celso Cerezo said late Wednesday the boy had been placed in a private hospital where a diagnosis showed he died from kidney failure, although it also confirmed he was stricken with A(H1N1), the virus threatening to spread to global pandemic status.
The government confirmed eight more cases, in five girls all age 12, two women age 21 and 31, and a 68-year-old man.
Guatemala is the eighth nation to report a death linked to swine flu. All are in the Americas and the Caribbean.
Guatemala shares a border with Mexico, the early epicenter of the swine flu outbreak.
"The A flu situation in Guatemala is categorized as an epidemic, while the global level is already a pandemic," Cerezo said.
The minister was getting ahead of the World Health Organization, which said it was consulting Thursday with its emergency committee of flu experts who could recommend the declaration of a swine flu pandemic.
Since the A(H1N1) virus was first discovered in the United States and Mexico in April, some 74 countries have reported 27,737 cases including 141 deaths to the WHO.
--French Press Agency