In the past year, there has been a significant increase in cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, as well as scabies, scarlet fever, and legionnaires’ disease in the Czech Republic. According to Kateřina Fabiánová from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the National Health Institute (SZÚ), the number of whooping cough cases, a disease that can be dangerous for small children, is expected to remain high this year as well.
The recent surge in whooping cough cases can be attributed to decreased disease circulation during the COVID-19 pandemic and a drop in vaccination rates among specific population groups. Preliminary data for 2023 indicate that 494 cases of whooping cough were reported across all age groups and one death of a person over 75 years old due to the disease. The disease appears more frequently in the population every three to five years.
The disease is most risky for unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated small children due to the potential development of severe complications and the possibility of death. Among last year’s patients, there were 20 children under one year old, most of whom were infected within the family. Fabiánová emphasizes that the best prevention is vaccinating pregnant women, which also protects children two months before their first vaccination. The compulsory vaccine given to children as part of a hexavalent vaccine does not provide lifelong protection, and experts recommend at least one booster in adulthood.
Meanwhile, the number of scabies cases nearly doubled from the previous year, according to preliminary data. While between 2000 and 5000 cases have been reported annually since 2014, there were 9167 last year. Fabiánová states that they do not know the exact cause of the increase in cases of scabies, as several factors usually contribute. Minor epidemics tend to recur every 15 to 20 years.
The risk of infection is higher in collective accommodation facilities, such as senior homes, hostels, and kindergartens. Employees of these facilities are also at risk of infection. Scabies are highly infectious and can easily be transmitted through direct contact between a healthy person and the skin of an infected person, especially during intensive contact, such as sexual intercourse or sleeping in the same bed. Transmission from bed linen, towels, clothing, and furniture is possible.