Czech Republic Records 3,084 registered cases of whooping cough

As Whooping cough continues to spread across Europe, Czech Republic has recorded 3,084 cases, a number not seen since 1963.

Sufferers include the 80-year-old mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, who is an MP and an eminent gynaecologist.

At a parliamentary health committee meeting, where he reportedly appeared without a mask, as he was on day six of an antibiotic course, the Prague branch of the Green Party did not take it lightly.

Public health regulations dictate that those with whooping cough must stay at home until the end of their antibiotic treatment, hence the party had filed criminal charges against the mayor for “spreading a contagious disease”.

The Prague public health authority has also sent out a letter to the capital’s schools, saying in the event of a confirmed case of whooping cough in a class, any unvaccinated children must be sent home.

But the head of the national public health authority, who admonished her Prague colleagues at a press conference, said schools had no authority to send home unvaccinated children as a precaution, rather, all cases should be judged individually.

Epidemiologists, including one who led the government’s measures against Covid, said recently amended health ministry guidelines called for exactly the approach recommended by the Prague authority.

Vaccination for whooping cough, known in Czech as “black cough”, is mandatory in the country, and meant to be administered, alongside inoculation for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and others, from the very first weeks of life.

Yet according to official figures, immunisation for whooping cough is estimated at 97% of the infant population, suggesting there are thousands of unvaccinated babies in the Czech Republic.

Health Minister Vlastimil Válek told Czech Television that the current rise in cases is down to a combination of two things: a resurgence in respiratory diseases as society abandons strict Covid measures; and incomplete immunisation in children.

The whooping cough vaccine is applied in five stages, the first three in the first 12 months of life. Almost all children receive these initial doses.

However, only 90% end up receiving the final two, administered around the ages of six and ten.

This, said Mr Válek, would explain why the greatest rise is among Czech teenagers.

Parents have been urged to check their children’s vaccination history, while adults are encouraged to go for booster shots.

In years gone by, dozens if not hundreds of babies and young children died in what was then Czechoslovakia from whooping cough each year, until the introduction of mandatory vaccination in 1958.

Experts say the modern population is still well protected by mass, state-administered compulsory vaccination.

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a contagious infection in the lung or breathing tube.

The first signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, with a runny nose and sore throat.

But after about a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last a few minutes and are typically worse at night.

Source BBC with input from NIM

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