The State Institute of Public Health (SZÚ) has recorded more positive samples for tuberculosis-causing bacteria (TB) in recent days than last year. Last year, from 1 March to 21 April, the National Reference Laboratory captured 39 positive samples, this year for the same period 57.
For the whole of 2020, from which the latest complete data come, there were 368 TB cases, 464 a year earlier.
“The National Reference Laboratory for Mycobacteria (NRLM) has seen an increase in M. tuberculosis strains sent for confirmatory antibiotic susceptibility in recent days. At the moment, however, from the point of view of the data available to us, it is too early to determine a clear reason, “said SZÚ director Barbora Macková.
The exact numbers of TB cases are reported retrospectively to the registries, according to the SZÚ, it does not provide data for the last weeks. The institute can thus only rely on a year-on-year comparison of the number of samples that were sent to the national reference laboratory for confirmation.
TB vaccination is no longer mandatory
In the Czech Republic, children were compulsorily vaccinated against TB by 2010, the vaccination was terminated due to a small number of cases also due to significant side effects. Only children from high-risk environments are vaccinated, such as newborns of mothers from countries with a higher incidence.
In recent years, Ukrainian children have been vaccinated directly in the maternity hospital; in 2020, about 89 percent of them received the vaccine.
According to experts, tuberculosis bacteria grow slowly, so the journey from sampling to cultivation and sending to the national reference laboratory takes several weeks. The positivity of the sample is then confirmed by the national reference laboratory and the strain that caused the disease is precisely defined.
According to Macková, he will continue to check every sent sample in the coming days and weeks. “To clarify whether this is a person who came to our country recently or a patient with permanent residence, together with information on whether he was already treated before arrival,” Macková added.
Short-term contact does not lead to infection
According to estimates by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), for every 2,000 displaced women from Ukraine, one case of active TB can be expected. For men over the age of 65, there is one case per 1,600 people and for children under the age of 14 one per 5,000. In the Czech Republic, approximately 307,000 refugees obtained a visa.
According to the head of the National Tuberculosis Surveillance Unit, Jiří Wallenfels, the higher number of samples of these bacteria may also be related to the fact that in the previous period the number of samples examined was lower due to covid-19.
New cases are also reported to regional health stations, which monitor the spread of TB bacteria. “Accidental and short-term contact with a tuberculosis patient does not usually lead to infection. This requires a longer, literally several-hour contact with a person who excretes a large amount of bacteria in the mucus from the airways, “Macková added.
In 2019 and 2020, there were around 400 cases per year in the Czech Republic. Foreigners make up about a third of cases in the long run, most often men who go to the Czech Republic for work.