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A Continent on Edge: Refugees Bringing Exotic Diseases Into Europe

© REUTERS / Alkis KonstantinidisRefugees and migrants
Refugees and migrants - Sputnik International
As migrants flock to Europe in huge numbers unseen since World War Two, fueling fears that they could bring rare infectious and contagious diseases Danish hospitals are on the lookout for diphtheria, which officials believe has been brought in by asylum seekers, The Local reported on Friday.

“The infection can be very dangerous if one isn’t vaccinated against it. The dangerous type is very rare and we last saw it in Denmark in 1998,” an a spokesman for the Danish State Serum Institute spokesman said.

Incoming refugees have also been found to carry tuberculosis and malaria.

“There is no doubt that infectious diseases are coming in with the refugees that we aren’t used to. There have been discussions on whether all refugees who come to Denmark should be screened," he said.

A police officer uses and hand held metal detector to check a man as he disembark from the patrol vessel Fiorillo of the Italian Coast Guard after it arrived in the port of Pozzallo on August 7, 2015 after saving some 387 migrants in the Sicilian Channel - Sputnik International
Unwelcome Guests: Infectious Diseases Migrate to Europe With Refugees
Unlike some European countries, Denmark does not screen arriving refugees for illnesses but that policy is likely to change.

Plans are also afoot to vaccinate arriving asylum seekers as Denmark does not vaccinate arriving migrants despite recommendations from the World Health Organization to do so.

In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that Europe's migration crisis is putting the EU at grave risk.

Mr. Valls told the BBC that Europe could not take all the refugees fleeing what he called terrible wars in Iraq or Syria.

"Otherwise," he warned, "our societies will be totally destabilized."

Meanwhile, health agencies confirmed that Syrian refugees have transported leishmaniasis to Lebanon and Turkey, where it has been difficult to manage and treat.

Moreover, patients can be infected with the parasitic disease without showing symptoms for weeks, months, or even years, which  means the health screening process for refugees could miss the disease entirely.

More than a million migrants, mostly refugees, arrived in Europe last year alone.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has previously warned of immigration's impact on "public health in Europe".

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