Flu epidemic expected within two weeks

The outbreak is coming is later than last year but is already in other countries

A large outbreak of flu is expected in the next two weeks, according to the Prague Hygiene Station.

So far, fewer than 10 percent of people have been vaccinated, which is low according to experts.

Compared with January 2017, the number of patients with acute respiratory infection is lower, but the number is still rising sharply. At the same time in 2017, it had almost peaked. Acute respiratory (ARI) infection includes respiratory diseases and influenza.

If people have not yet had a flu vaccination, it is most likely too late for it to be effective. “After administering the vaccine, it takes the body for about two weeks to produce effective antibodies,” Jan Jarolímek, head of the Prague Hygiene Station, said according to daily Pražský deník.

Last year at this time, 1,300 people per 100,000 inhabitants had ARI, now it is 1,000 patients.

“The exact moment of the onset of the epidemic cannot be predicted, but according to the current situation, it can be expected at the end of January and start of February for this year,” Jarolímek said.

For unvaccinated people, hygienists recommend avoiding contact with the patients; washing hands regularly with soap; not putting hands in their eyes, nose, and mouth; maintaining a varied diet; and having plenty of rest.

People who are or might be infected should avoid contact with people over 60 years old, as this group is most likely to suffer severe complications requiring hospitalization.

“The number of Czechs who have been vaccinated against influenza has long been the lowest in Europe and is, in our view, totally inadequate. It is a great shame that people in the Czech Republic underestimate vaccination,” Jarolímek said.

People between 60 and 69 years of age are most likely to get vaccinated, making up one-quarter of those that do so.

Vaccination can prevent possible complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis. These conditions can be serious and land people in intensive care units. Last year, some 79 people were hospitalized with flu complications and 29 died in Prague.

Among those currently affected by the flu, the largest group is children under five, followed by people between 15 and 24 years of age. Schoolchildren between 6 and 14 are third but last week they experienced the sharpest increase in the number of patients.

The number of ARI patients tends to drop over the Christmas holidays and then rise again. The number of patients has already reached the level the pre-Christmas level.

According to the Prague Hygiene Station, other countries in Europe are already experiencing a flu epidemic, and in northern and southwestern Europe morbidity is steadily rising.

Reports from the US, which has already been hard hit by the flu, say it is the worst epidemic there since 2009.

The strains of flu affecting people are stronger than in recent years, and the vaccine has been less effective, US health officials said.

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