Norwegians fear disease from refugees

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A pair of latex drugs such as those worn by worried Norwegians. Photo: WIkia
21:09 CEST+02:00
Norwegians are so fearful that incoming refugees will bring diseases that some people have even started wearing protective gloves, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) has warned.

Trude Arnesen, chief physician at the NIPH's Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology told Norway's public broadcaster NRK that his institute had received a surge in calls from members of the public

"Some have imaginative worries, for example that bus seats will be infected by contagious diseases," he said. Some people have started to use gloves."

Norway has seen a sharp increase in the number of refugees entering the country, with 2,800 asylum applications filed so far this month, and 20,000 people expected to arrive this year.

NIPH maintains that the refugees do not pose a threat to Norwegian public, because, even though many have had a tough time on their journey to Norway, they are statistically not sicker than the majority of Norwegians.

"There are no special precautions needed. The refugees do not carry any diseases that we don't have in our flora already," Arnesen told NRK.

"We know that it is the healthiest people in a population that migrate. They're those who have the strength and resources to manage such a journey."

Nonetheless, Hero, a company which runs asylum centres in Norway said it was offering extra vaccinations to staff. 

"All new employees are offered vaccinations and the cost in covered by the employer," Eli Størset, a senior advisor at Hero Norway, told NRK. 

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Størset agreed that the risk of infection is minimal, even for people who work closely with refugees who have just arrived every day.

"For example tuberculosis, we have not had a case among our employees ever. The risk is minimal. The vaccination programme in voluntary. Many chose to do it, and many chose not to," Størset said.

Although refugees do not pose a health threat in Norway, there are serious health problems among the estiamted two million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Many Syrian children have not been vaccinated against the measles due to the break down of the health care system in Syria during the ongoing civil war.

This has caused an increase in the number of cases of measles and other illnesses in Turkey, where children living in refugee camps are now being immunised.
“Turkey will see the negative effects of an increase in epidemic diseases that are being brought by Syrian refugees who are admitted [to Turkey] without the proper health safety measures taken,” İstanbul Public Health Directorate Secretary-General Dr. Tuna İman told Turkey's Today's Zaman news.

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