Czech Republic steps up swine flu preparations amid fears of autumn pandemic

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the Czech Republic has almost doubled in the last few days with the total climbing to over 70. The Ministry of Health is meanwhile boosting its preparations for a worse case scenario. There are fears that a much a more virulent and serious form of swine flu could spread during the autumn.

Photo: CTK
Twenty new cases of swine flu were confirmed on Monday in the Czech Republic on Monday and 12 on Wednesday. This takes the total number of cases to 75 but no-one here has yet died from the virus.

On a global scale, the Czech total is still quite low. For example, Britain announced 100,000 new cases last week and there have been more than 30 deaths there. Nevertheless, Czech preparations are being stepped up with a view to fears that there could be a much more serious wave of infection in the autumn.

The big fear is that the current version of swine flu – which has mostly had a mild affect on those infected – will mutate into something more deadly which will have a bigger killing capacity. One Czech expert, Roman Prymula of the Czech Vaccinology Society, has said there is a 50-50 risk of this happening.

Dana Jurásková
With this in light, the government has already stocked up with anti-virus jabs for around a quarter of the population and a further 2.5 million doses are on order. But some countries, such as Britain and France, have already said they have got anti-virus in stock or ordered for the whole population.

Preparations on the ground for a pandemic are also underway. Minister of Health Dana Jurásková is due to visit regional health authorities next week to check out whether they have sufficient beds ready to deal with such a pandemic scenario. There are preparations for beds to be made available in students’ hall of residences, hostels and pensions.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is above all telling the public there is no need to panic. It is also warning people against trying to contract the current milder form of swine flu with the idea they might be immune to a more serious strain. This is very risky because no-one knows how the body will react even to what might be regarded as a mild dose, it says.

One new recommendation is for people to get vaccinated against ordinary flu for the autumn because this could build up their resistance and stand them in good stead if they contract swine flu. There are other basic pieces of advice to keep up a good level of immunity: keep fit, do not drink too much alcohol and cut down on smoking.

The Czech Association of Patients has gone further than the ministry. It has recommended people not to travel abroad and avoid concerts – such as the big Madonna concert in Prague in August. But the Health Ministry at the moment says such decisions as whether to travel abroad are individual ones.