The Croatian Institute of Public Health has received 660 reports of whooping cough patients by Monday, with reports still coming in and the possibility that the number of patients is even higher. About 50 percent of all registered cases are in the Split-Dalmatia County, with approximately 300 patients, and a similar number of patients in the City of Zagreb. There are about 15 to 20 cases in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, and Zagreb County, with the other counties recording less than five patients each, explained Tatjana Nemeth Blažić, MD, an epidemiology specialist at HZJZ. Last week, there were over 600 reported cases of whooping cough in Croatia, but it is believed that the number is at least twice as high. The epidemic is expected to flare up over the next few weeks, but it is difficult to predict when it will reach its peak.
The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which creates toxins and damages the respiratory system. Incubation lasts from six to 20 days, and the disease begins gradually and is similar to a classic cold, with a mild course at the beginning. It is a highly contagious disease transmitted through droplets, affecting newborns and children up to one year old who have not yet developed their own immunity. Possible protection can be vaccination of a pregnant woman in the third trimester of pregnancy, in which case the immunity will be indirectly transferred to the child. Vaccination is important for infants because they can get a severe form of the disease and it is important that they receive all the prescribed doses of the vaccine.
Specific cough appears as the main symptom in older children and adults, and the disease can also have atypical symptoms and go unrecognized. However, in infants, the clinical picture is different, and young children may suddenly stop breathing, pointing out the danger of the disease in infants. It’s important for parents to check the vaccination status of their children and arrange for additional vaccinations if necessary.
The Croatian Institute of Public Health has been testing an average of 150 to 200 people a day, with 30 to 50 percent testing positive. It is also important for the doctor to send patients with clinical symptoms for testing. It is essential to be proactive in checking and maintaining the vaccination status of children to prevent the spread of the disease.