- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SAO PAULO (AP) - 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, Brazil’s Health Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said the illness caused 71 deaths in January, February and March, 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.

Concerned with the outbreak, Sao Paulo state started its flu vaccination campaign in late March, a month earlier than originally planned.

Over the weekend, the amount of vaccine available in Sao Paulo was quickly reduced to zero as people rushed to public and private hospitals to get inoculated. Authorities said they had received more doses that would be distributed to the population.

“In previous years you would buy and receive the vaccines the next day. Nowadays you buy and you don’t know how much and when you will receive the vaccines. Today it is calm here because we don’t have vaccines,” said Katia Goncalves, director of the privately owned Rocha Lima clinic in Sao Paulo’s industrial suburb of Sao Caetano do Sul.


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