“No association between migration and importation of infectious diseases”

By Marijn Meijer y Bodisco Massink

Over the last few months several media informed European citizens that refugees, entering the European Union would bring infectious diseases with them. This argument was also mentioned in the propaganda of the Fidesz government in the Hungarian Referendum last October.

The Hungarian Referendum was not the only place this argument was mentioned, “PBS Newshour” also released an item about a Greek school where the Parents Teacher Association told the Education Ministry that under no circumstances would they allow children from a nearby refugee camp into their school because of the anxiety of infections diseases.

Also the online news website “Natural News” wrote an article with the headline: “Migrants bringing infectious diseases back to Europe: tuberculosis, diphtheria and more”.

But if these statements, articles and fears are justified can be questioned. Can refugees really bring dangerous diseases into Europe and is this a threat for European citizens?

In “Truenews” they spoke about getting malaria because of refugees, but according to Yvonne van Duijnhoven of the GGD of Amsterdam (public heath service) the contagion of malaria in Europe is far below world average, because the kind of mosquitoes that carry this disease don’t exist in Europe.

Another associate of the GGD explains: “When people arrive at refugee centers they screen people from countries with a high risk of infectious diseases. For example, in Africa and Iraq there is a high risk of several infectious diseases, like tuberculosis and diphtheria”. The volunteers and employees of the GGD who work with people from high risk countries are screened twice a year as well.

An infectious disease like tuberculosis can be contagious. But can only be transferred in case of direct contact, this brings up the question: how often do you see this person and how close is the contact? For instance, if you sit in a car with someone who is infected by an infectious form of tuberculosis, the chance of getting infected is much larger than if you see this person once in a while during grocery shopping.

According to the GGD and the World Health Organisation (WHO) these kind of infectious diseases are easily treatable in Europe and moreover, people with an infectious form of tuberculosis are often not fit enough to travel either.

The WHO did research on the subject “Migration and Communicable disease”, they state that most infectious diseases are connected to poverty. In case of war, economic crises, people fleeing for there lives, the circumstances are inhuman. People usually get sick because of contaminated food-and waterborne infections. The European Region has battled and overcome a long history with infectious diseases. According to the WHO the large amount of ill refugees decreases enormously in case of economic development, like in Europe. In these circumstances they can have access to safe water, adequate sanitation and medical care. This doesn’t mean that infectious diseases do not exist in Europe anymore, but it stands apart from migration. Nevertheless “in spite of the common perception of an association between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, there is no systematic association”, According to the research of the WHO.

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