South America

Brazil swine flu deaths double in 2015

File photo from 2009: A woman and a man wearing masks to prevent infection from swine flu arrive at the Miguel Couto hospital in Rio de Janeiro. Source: AAP

As Brazil prepares to host the Olympic Games in August, new figures show there have been twice as many swine flu deaths this year than in all of 2015.

Brazil's health ministry says the H1N1 swine flu virus has killed almost twice as many people in Latin America's biggest country over the past three months as it did in all of 2015.

The ministry said on Tuesday the illness caused 71 deaths between January and March of this year, compared to 36 in 2015.

Of the 71 deaths, 55 were in the state of Sao Paulo, which accounted for 372 of the 444 cases registered in the first three months of the year.

The swine flu outbreak comes as Brazil prepares to host the Olympics in August and struggles with the worst recession in decades and a sprawling corruption investigation at state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Nationwide outbreaks of Zika, dengue and chikungunya have also hit Brazil.

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