Czech Republic braces for swine flu epidemic

Photo: CTK

Swine flu is back on front pages in the Czech Republic, with the health authorities reporting a steep rise in the number of cases this past week. Close to 500 people have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus and two people have died of related complications.

The Czech health authorities are bracing for a swine flu epidemic as dozens of new cases are now reported on a daily basis. This week alone saw 92 new cases, the closure of four secondary schools and, for the first time, cases of infected health workers none of whom have yet been vaccinated against the swine flu.

Doctors in Ústí nad Labem, north of Prague on Friday fought to save the life of a 28-year-old pregnant woman, performing an emergency Cesarean section in order to be able to treat her without harming the baby. The baby, born in the 30th week of pregnancy, is reported to be doing well, the mother remains in critical condition. A patient with leukemia in a Prague hospital died of swine flu related complications on Thursday, and several others are reported to be in serious condition.

Although the majority of the country’s registered 486 cases have been light, two chronically ill patients have died of complications and a number of young people with no previous health problems have suffered serious respiratory problems.

The Czech Republic has ordered a million swine flu vaccines –with the first 95,000 expected to arrive next week. First in line will be health workers, chronically ill patients and eventually those considered key to the functioning of the country. The country’s chief hygiene officer Michael Vít has rejected accusations that the vaccines are “too little, too late” saying that he does not expect a full-blown epidemic before mid-December.

Photo: CTK
Others predict it will come much sooner, in view of the worsening situation in neighbouring Austria, Germany and Ukraine, which borders on the Czech Republic’s next door neighbour Slovakia. At any rate, experts point out that nobody really knows how many people in the Czech Republic currently have or have already had swine flu –since, like in Austria, Czech doctors do not test everyone who turns up with flu symptoms. And in light cases many people would not even see their GP. As a result the official figures now available could easily be just the tip of the iceberg.