In the Czech Republic, there are outbreaks of highly contagious whooping cough among unvaccinated children, including those of school age. The State Health Institute (SZÚ) informed about this in a press release.
According to experts, the riskiest infection is for young children who have not yet completed vaccination, which is mandatory in the Czech Republic and which is also required for admission to kindergarten.
According to the SZÚ, the disease is also spreading more in other European countries. “The vaccination against pertussis, or whooping cough, is one of the mandatory vaccines. The development thus suggests that whooping cough thrives for the most part among people who refuse vaccination,” said Barbora Macková, director of the health institute.
According to her, parents who doubt vaccination should consult a pediatrician. And if possible, they followed the vaccination calendar, she added. According to the vaccination calendar of mandatory vaccines, children should receive the hexavaccine at approximately two, four and 12 months.
“In the last few weeks, we have observed a slight but steady increase in the number of reported cases of pertussis in the Czech Republic,” said Kateřina Fabiánová, deputy head of the Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases of the SZÚ.
During covid, the number of cases decreased
During the covid epidemic, droplet-borne diseases, including whooping cough, spread less. The number of cases is still lower than in the years before the covid-19 epidemic, but experts expect a further increase. From January to the end of September, there were 127 cases, 67 last year and 39 the year before.
According to experts, the epidemic returns in cycles of several years. In the last ten years, the most sick people were in 2014, when the number of cases exceeded 2,500. After several years of decline, it rose again to more than 1,300 in 2019. Although this year’s numbers are still a tenth of this number, experts expect an increase.
According to experts, earlier increases in morbidity were always reflected in increased morbidity among the smallest children, including their hospitalizations. They are also threatened by the increased pressure in the lungs caused by the disease, with the subsequent risk of heart failure. To protect children younger than one year who have not completed their vaccinations, experts recommend vaccinating pregnant women in the third trimester.
“The most common source of illness for the smallest children is their environment, i.e. siblings, parents, grandparents and other adolescents and adults,” explained Fabiánová. According to her, local occurrences are increasingly occurring in unvaccinated children, for example in the Hradec Králové or Liberec regions. “For now, this is an accumulation of a few cases, but this indicates that the causative agent of the disease is still circulating in the population,” she added.
Symptoms can last for months
A typical symptom is a whooping cough, and the attacks may last for several days. “The possibility of whooping cough in children, adolescents and adults should always be considered if the cough lasts longer than a week,” SZÚ representatives described in a press release.
At first, there may be a runny nose, lacrimation, sneezing, conjunctivitis, slightly elevated temperature, hoarseness, sore throat, but the dominant is the development of paroxysmal, usually dry cough, with redness or blueness especially in the face. “There may be a brief pause in breathing followed by a loud, stuttering sound reminiscent of a rooster crowing,” they further described.
At the end of the attack, expectoration of viscous mucus or vomiting may occur. The cough worsens at night and does not respond to conventional treatment. “The patient usually has no symptoms between coughing fits, which is an important distinction from respiratory viruses or allergic conditions,” they added. Symptoms of an untreated disease can last three months or longer.
Vaccination against whooping cough is part of the so-called hexavaccine, which is given to young children. Immunity gradually declines after vaccination, children are revaccinated again at ten or 11 years of age. According to experts, another revaccination in adulthood is also suitable.
“However, if a vaccinated person encounters the causative agent of the disease, the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, vaccination against whooping cough will prevent serious courses and complications of the disease in most individuals, and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and the risk of death,” added Fabiánová.