Health scare in Denmark as refugees bring back diphtheria after 20yr absence

© Michael Dalder
Danish authorities have warned hospitals over possible outbreak of infectious diseases as several cases of diphtheria, tuberculosis and malaria carried by the refugees have already been registered.

“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,” Kurt Fuursted, spokesperson for the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) told Metroxpress referring to the potential return of diphtheria. This disease was last diagnosed in Denmark about 20 years ago.

 “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 added.

At present Denmark doesn’t follow the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to vaccinate incoming migrants, unlike some other European countries.

 “Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants should be vaccinated without unnecessary delay according to the immunization schedule of the country in which they intend to stay for more than a week,” reads a joint WHO-UNHCR-UNICEF guidance on general principles of vaccination of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Europe, published on November 23 last year. It urges countries to provide migrants access to the “full vaccination schedule.”

The immigration officials and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority, a supreme healthcare authority in Denmark, are expected to review screening policy, according to Health Minister Sophie Lunde.

In recent months, Denmark has begun to tighten the screws in an effort to curb the refugee influx. On Thursday the Danish Parliament is set to vote on a bill proposing to strip refugees of valuables, including cash and jewelry, to cover the costs the country bears in connection with their stay. It would allow authorities to claim individual items valued at more than 10,000 kroner (US$1,450).

In the Danish cities of Thisted, Sonderborg and Haderslev, local club owners have started to introduce ‘language controls’, turning people away if they don’t speak Danish, English or German.

In 2015, some 18,000 refugees sought asylum in Denmark according to the migration agency, a far cry from almost 163,000 refugees in the neighboring Sweden.