Czech Republic on brink of nationwide flu epidemic as vaccine proves largely ineffective

Photo: Filip Jandourek

The Czech Republic is on the brink of a nationwide flu epidemic with all 14 regions severely affected. This year’s strain of flu is reported to be exceptionally aggressive and due to a mutation of the virus it has made the vaccine largely ineffective. The Bruntál region moreover reports four cases of swine flu with one patient in critical condition.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
The flu season is here with a vengeance and doctors waiting rooms are bursting at the seams. The South Moravian and Zlín regions have crossed the epidemic threshold while others are on the brink of declaring an epidemic with on average 850 sick people per 100,000 inhabitants. Doctors report that in reality the situation is likely to be much worse since only about half of patients who fall sick seek medical attention. Moreover this year’s flu virus is reported to be particularly aggressive, accompanied by a high fever and severe joint pain. Many patients say it put them out of action for up to three weeks. Epidemiologist Rastislav Maďar explains that a mutation of the H3N2 virus has made this year’s flu vaccine largely ineffective, leaving a larger segment of the population vulnerable.

Rastislav Maďar,  photo: archive of Rastislav Maďar
“The mutation that occurred in the virus is fairly insignificant from our point of view, however it has changed the structure of the virus meaning that the anti-bodies developed as a result of the vaccine may not recognize it.”

Hospitals and old people’s homes in the worst affected regions have closed their doors to visitors and some schools have declared flu holidays in an effort to prevent the flu spreading further. Doctors predict that it will be another three weeks before it peaks and have appealed to the public for people to act responsibly and not expose others to the disease by refusing to take time off from work and even going to social events while they are still sick.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
Bruntál moreover reports a more serious threat, the hospital in Krnov has already admitted four patients with the dreaded swine flu, one of whom is in critical condition. The first incidence of the swine flu was registered in the Czech Republic in 2009 and although the vaccine applied in recent years protects against this particular strain only a small segment of the population gets vaccinated. With the flu barely making an appearance in 2014 only around five percent of Czechs bothered to get vaccinated this year.