Scientists in the Czech Republic have called for a national reference laboratory for human Campylobacter infections to be created in the country.

From 2018 to 2021, 81,115 cases were reported in the electronic Infectious Disease Information System (ISIN). Slightly more men than women were sick. Campylobacter jejuni makes up the majority of cases followed by Campylobacter coli. The highest incidence was in people aged 1 to 4 years old.

Almost 10,000 people were hospitalized and 34 deaths were reported including five children younger than 5, three teenagers, seven people aged 21 to 35, and 19 people older than 57.

Preventative measures should be aimed at children younger than 5 because of the high incidence and people older than 80 who are at higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization, said scientists.

An issue that needs more attention
The Czech Republic usually has a higher incidence of campylobacteriosis than the EU average. However, the reported share of hospitalized cases is lower than the EU average, which would point to a better reporting system that is catching less severe infections, said researchers.

Seasonality is shown by an increase in the number of cases, mainly in the summer months, with a smaller rise in the period around Christmas.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, there was a 27 percent decrease in Campylobacter cases compared to 2018 and 2019. The decline compared to the expected number was mainly in March and April 2020, likely connected to restrictive measures because of the pandemic.

In 2016 to 2019, about 24,000 cases per year were recorded. In 2020, below 18,000 cases, with 2,106 hospitalizations and 17 deaths were reported and in 2021 there were less than 16,400 cases.

More than 800 travel-related infections mainly involved Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Spain.

Campylobacter outbreaks are rarely reported in the Czech Republic with one of 13 cases in 2021 and none in 2020. A total of 82 cases were part of five small outbreaks from 2018 to 2021.

Because of the large number of cases, Campylobacter causes a significant burden for the Czech population and the health system. It needs to be given increased attention and studies conducted to look for the sources and reasons for the high incidence said researchers.

Salmonella outbreak
In other news, Czech health officials are investigating 130 illnesses in the city of Hradec Králové.

Sick people ate in the same food service outlet between late March and early April. The source of the problem has not yet been identified but a link between illness and peanut sauce has been suggested. However, none of the potentially contaminated sauce is left to test.

Salmonellosis has been confirmed in 90 patients and several samples have been sent to the National Reference Laboratory for further analysis.

Officials have closed the outlet and ordered cleaning and sanitizing measures to be taken. They added re-opening will only be possible when authorities verify the effectiveness of corrective actions.

Local media named one location of Vietnamese restaurant Chich Food’s as the affected eatery and said the owner had already decided not to reopen this branch. The restaurant has other sites which are not affected.

A total of 43 samples were taken as part of an inspection of the establishment including raw materials and swabs from surfaces, utensils, and the hands of employees.

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