Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil swine flu: H1N1 vaccinations to begin as virus kills 230

Pregnant woman being vaccinated against H1N1 in Rio de Janeiro, 25 April 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption The increase in the number of swine flu cases prompted the government to bring forward the vaccination campaign from June to the end of April

The health ministry in Brazil says 230 people have been killed by swine flu this year - more than six times the number for the whole of 2015.

More than 70 deaths were registered in the last week alone, officials said.

A national campaign of free swine flu vaccinations begins on Saturday.

Brazil, which will host the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, is already suffering an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Long queues have formed outside private clinics that are already offering the swine flu jabs.

Sao Paulo hit worst

In the state of Rio de Janeiro alone, some 4m jabs are reportedly being offered.

Priority is being given to the groups of people seen as most vulnerable - the very young, the elderly and those already suffering from other conditions, says the BBC's Wyre Davies in Rio.

"The official data shows that people over the age of 60 and under five are the most affected by the acute respiratory syndrome caused by the H1N1 virus," the city of Sao Paulo Health Secretary, Alexandre Padilha, told O Globo newspaper.

The state of Sao Paulo has been the worst affected by the H1N1 virus. Deaths there make up half the national total.

Because of the surge in cases in Sao Paulo, health authorities have brought forward the national vaccinating campaign there.

More than 1.7 million people have already been vaccinated in the city of Sao Paulo.

The H1N1 virus first appeared in Mexico in 2009 and rapidly spread around the world.

Some estimates put the death toll worldwide at more than 200,000 people.

More on this story