Flu epidemic ends in Prague

The number of cases has fallen and in to expected to rise until the autumn

The influenza epidemic has ended in Prague, according to the Prague Hygiene Station (HS HMP). The station has been tracking incidents of acute respiratory infection (ARI) since the end of September 2017.

“The number of reported diseases in Prague for the first time this season fell to non-epidemic levels in all age categories. The highest drop … by 24 percent was seen in school children between 6 and 14 years of age. It can be assumed that this decline will be permanent,” HS HMP director Jan Jarolímek said on the station’s website.

The number of respiratory illnesses caused by influenza viruses are expected to continue to decline, he added. This year’s flu season was 14 days shorter than the one last year.

“This year, we record 67 serious illnesses that required hospitalization at an intensive care unit and, unfortunately, 17 deaths,” Jarolímek said.

In the previous flu season, some 79 people were hospitalized with flu complications and 29 died in Prague.

The epidemic was at its highest at the beginning of February. Doctors reported 1,770 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during this period. The number of patients dropped due to spring holidays in some city districts. It had risen again for the last few weeks, and dropped again two weeks ago. It also dropped significantly between Christmas and the new year, when there were holidays at school and work.

People in the Czech Republic are among the least likely in Europe to take advantage of influenza vaccines.

“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 previously when the flu outbreak was nearing its peak.

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.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu epidemic, which ran from January 1918 to December 1920 and infected some 500 million people worldwide. In total, it killed 50 million to 100 million people or about 3 percent to 6 percent of the world’s population. It ranks among the deadliest natural disasters in history. Some 10 percent to 20 percent of infected people died from the disease.

The name Spanish flu is because neutral Spain was one of the few countries to report on its effects, as other countries in Europe were censoring news about it due to World War I. The actual origin on the flu is unknown.

Czech expressionist painter Bohumil Kubišta is among those who died from the Spanish flu. Writer Franz Kafka, known for his poor health, paradoxically was infected but survived.

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