Flu epidemic has started

Health officials urge people who are infected to stay home

Prague is at the start of a flu epidemic, according to health experts. The number of patients whose laboratory tests have confirmed true influenza has been increasing. They warn that infected people should be mindful of their health and surroundings, and stay home.

The disease spreads easily by droplets and objects that have come into contact with infected people such as door handles or surfaces in public transport. Infected people should be mindful of their environment so as not to spread the virus.

“We are at the outset of an epidemic and we can predict that the number of reported cases will continue to rise in the next few weeks. Everyone should be responsible for their health and, in the case of the first symptoms of the disease, remain in isolation,” Zdeňka Jágrová, director of the anti-epidemic department of Prague Hygiene Station, said according to media reports.

Children have seen the largest increase in infection. “In the group of children under the age of 14, a significant increase in sickness of almost half was recorded,” Jágrová said, referring to weekly statistics.

In addition to the general increase in the number of patients with respiratory ailments, tests have confirmed an increase in the number of patients who suffer from true influenza rather than those who suffer from another respiratory disease.

Five children have serious cases that require hospitalization. “These were children aged 22 months to 16 years. Three children have confirmed cases of influenza A / H1N1 I and two have influenza B,” Jágrová said.

Children, the chronically ill or seniors can have serious complications from the flu. The spread of the disease among children could be slowed down by the upcoming school breaks.

Complications include 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.

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.

It is too late for flu vaccinations, as the shots weaken patients for two weeks before building up sufficient antibodies to prevent the disease. The Czech Republic has one of the lowest few vaccination rates in Europe, under 10 percent.

Among those currently affected by the flu, the largest group is children under five, followed by people between 15 and 24 years of age.

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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