Whooping cough outbreak grips Czechia: Here’s everything you need to know

The highly contagious disease is spreading at concerningly high rates nationwide as the country stocks up on vaccines.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 14.03.2024 11:52:00 (updated on 15.03.2024) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czechia, and Europe at large are facing the worst whooping cough outbreak in a decade. With over 2,700 cases reported this year alone – more than in the last four years altogether – experts are raising concerns over public health readiness and vaccination coverage. 

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis or the 100-day cough, is a bacterial respiratory disease that can have serious consequences. It mainly affects babies and teenagers, although everyone can get it. It is highly contagious, and a person with whooping cough can spread it one to three weeks after symptoms begin.

Unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to suffer complications. Older people are also at major risk of serious health effects after contracting the disease.

Where does Czechia stand at present?

Last week, the country reported a huge jump of 608 reported infections. On Feb. 1, the number of infections stood at 378 cases – this figure is now approaching 3,000. Prague Mayor Bohulav Svoboda confirmed this week that he also has the disease.

However, according to the Czech State Health Institute (SZÚ), this number could be even higher, as not all cases are diagnosed and reported to the authorities.

The last time Czechia saw similar numbers of whooping cough cases was in 2014 – but even then, the situation was less serious, as authorities reported 2,500 infections for the whole year.

What do public health experts say?

“Given the rapidly increasing number of whooping cough cases…it is ideal to be revaccinated in adulthood,” said SZÚ director Barbora Macková. 

"In order to respond to the current situation with pertussis, we need to increase vaccination coverage in children at the age of five and 10, pay attention to pregnant women and every adult should be vaccinated at least once in adulthood," president of the Czech Vaccinological Society Roman Chlíbek similarly said.

Vaccination against whooping cough for children is free and mandatory in Czechia. However, this is not the case for adults, as public health insurance does not cover it. Prices range from CZK 750 to CZK 1,270, and the vaccination most often administered is the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) three-way vaccine.

Macková encourages the public to be revaccinated to increase public immunity. 

The Czech Vaccinological Society has also called on health insurance companies to extend vaccine reimbursement options to adults, as data shows that public health insurance coverage leads to higher vaccination rates. 

How do I know the difference between a whooping cough and cold?

According to senior physician Barbara Taušová from the Canadian Medical healthcare group, classic whooping cough symptoms include coughing attacks with a gasp at the end of the fit. It can also include bruising and vomiting. 

Although its early symptoms are similar to a cold or flu, whooping cough cases persist for weeks and often worsen over time.

What should I do if I suspect I have whooping cough?

You should see a doctor and have the relevant blood tests immediately. The treatment course for whooping cough is antibiotics, usually taken for between seven and 10 days. The SZÚ says that most patients can recuperate and recover at home.

Is Czechia well-equipped to deal with the threat?

Some general health practitioners have complained about a shortage of vaccines in specific regions, especially for children’s vaccines.

However, Deputy Health Minister Josef Pavlovic calmed down the public earlier this week, noting that over 70,000 vaccine doses are currently available in the country, with about 10,000 additional shipments from the UK expected this month.

Pavlovic also said that Czechia is not near an epidemic of whooping cough instances.

Where should I go if I want to get vaccinated?

You should ask your general practitioner whether the doctor’s surgery can vaccinate you. Alternatively, you can use private vaccination centers to reserve your vaccination. In both instances, you will need to pay.

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