LONDON - Europe recorded its first death from H1N1 flu on Sunday after Scottish health officials said a patient with the disease had died, just days after the World Health Organisation labelled the outbreak a global pandemic.

The person who died had pre-existing health problems, Scotland's Health Ministry said, adding that the influenza virus -- commonly known as swine flu -- was generally mild.

Scotland has suffered a disproportionately high number of cases of H1N1 flu, a mix of human, pig and bird viruses. Late on Sunday Scotland had confirmed 498 cases out of a British total of 1,261, the highest in Europe.

Most of the flu deaths have occurred in Mexico, the source of the outbreak, while the United States has the highest number of cases with more than 13,000 people infected.

We can confirm that one of the patients who had been in hospital, and had been confirmed as suffering from the H1N1 virus, has died today, the Scottish government said in a statement.

The patient had underlying health conditions, the statement continued. Officials declined to give further details about the patient.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an influenza pandemic on Thursday and advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against the virus.

Scottish Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the risk to the public remained low.

Tragic though today's death is, I would like to emphasise that the vast majority of those who have H1N1 are suffering from relatively mild symptoms, she said.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Alison Williams)