Japan confirmed on Monday 125 people, many of whom had not been abroad, had been infected with the new strain of H1N1 flu after New York recorded its first death from the virus and Chile reported its first two cases.
Thirty-nine countries have now confirmed cases of the flu strain, a mix of swine, human and avian viruses, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The H1N1 flu last month prompted the WHO to raise its global pandemic alert level to 5 on a 6-point scale.
To date, almost all the deaths have been in Mexico. The WHO, whose data lags national tallies, earlier put the number of confirmed worldwide cases at 8,480, with 72 deaths.
The WHO said on Sunday it was watching the situation in Japan closely, but that it was not clear whether the outbreak would trigger the declaration of a full pandemic.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso recorded a video message for broadcast on television calling for calm while urging people to wash their hands, gargle and wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the disease.
“Experts say that if you receive timely treatment, this new flu is not something to be afraid of,” Aso said in the message.