Migrants at ‘low risk’ of passing disease to host country residents: WHO report

European residents are at “low risk” of contracting communicable diseases such as TB or HIV from migrants, although the latter group is more likely to fall victim to such illnesses, according to a World Health Organisation report.

“Infections in those migrating have minimal public health implications for most host populations in the WHO European Region,” the report’s authors wrote. “The unprecedented arrival of large numbers of refugees and migrants into the EU/EEA since 2010 has not been associated with significant infectious diseases outbreaks.”

Poor living conditions in their home countries, coupled with a lack of vaccination and the stress and trauma that can be associated with moving country, mean that refugees and other migrants are at greater risk of falling victim to some infections. And even with conditions they are no more likely to contract than permanent residents – such as cancer – migrants are more likely to die because they are often diagnosed later, the report concluded.

To read more about this go to: https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/21/migrants-at-low-risk-of-passing-disease-to-host-country-residents-who-report

Improving health of refugees and migrants

Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have entered Europe, either escaping conflict in their country or in search of better economic prospects.Most migrants are healthy when they arrive in the EU, but they can be affected by conditions and factors prior to their travel or during their journey. They may be suffering from physical exhaustion, extreme distress, dehydration or cold. These challenges, combined with other issues, such as inadequate living conditions or unhealthy lifestyles, can seriously impact their physical and mental health. If they were already dealing with chronic diseases, their health may have further deteriorated.

No person entering the EU should be left without access to basic healthcare, and no EU country can or should be left alone to manage the public health dimension of such an unprecedented crisis.

To read more about improving health of refugees and migrants at europa.eu: http://ec.europa.eu/chafea/news/news523.html

UN European coalition on health

The UN European coalition on health is a coordination mechanism focusing on the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – in the pan-European Region, and of the health-related targets present in other SDGs.

At its initial meeting in 2016 the coalition identified four key workstreams to focus on:

  1. health throughout the life-course, with a focus on maternal and child health (contributing to SDG 3, 4, 5, 16);
  2. communicable diseases, with a focus on HIV and tuberculosis (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 6);
  3. universal health coverage, with a focus on medicines (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 5);
  4. migration, including aspects of emergencies (contributing to SDG 3, 1, 10, 11, 13).

For more information about the UN European coalition on health on the euro.who.int website

European Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration

Although the number of refugee and migrant arrivals has seen an overall reduction in recent months, migration to Europe continues at a steady rate. In 2016 more than 330,000 refugees and migrants reached Italy and Greece with over 4,200 being found dead or reported missing at sea, compared to 3,771 in 2015.

The health systems in countries receiving refugees and migrants should be able to deal with the immediate health needs of new arrivals, as well as diagnose and treat common infectious diseases and noncommunicable illnesses. They should have effective disease surveillance and reporting systems in place to investigate and respond to outbreaks.

WHO has launched the first ever European Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration to support the work of those who deal directly with the health aspects of migration, serving as a repository for scientific evidence on the subject. It will act as a learning platform for all stakeholders working in the field of migration and health, including policy-makers, health professionals, social workers, managers of migration centres and first-line responders.

More information about Migrants and Health on the euro.who.int website

Brexit and the social care workforce

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of European migrants in the social care workforce. In the first part of 2016 alone, over 80% of all migrant care workers who moved to England to take on a social care role were from Europe. Any restrictions to the migration of European citizens would likely reduce the overall number of workers in the social care sector, making it even harder to recruit and retain the necessary numbers of staff.

The charity Independent Age has produced a report ‘Brexit and the future of migrants in the social care workforce’ that reviews future workforce shortages in adult social care in England taking into account the EU referendum result.

To download the report on Brexit and workforce shortages from the independentage.org website.

Rethinking European health care

The European Health Parliament is a platform of 55 young professionals from across Europe, which aims to deliver high-level policy-oriented recommendations to positively influence and change the future of healthcare in Europe. It has just published ‘Rethinking European Healthcare: recommendations by the next generation’.

It covers proposals on:

  • antimicrobial resistance
  • climate change and health
  • digital skills for health professionals
  • migration and health
  • prevention and self-care

For more information and to download the full report or the executive summary of ‘Rethinking European Healthcare’ from the healthparliament.eu website

TB elimination at stake in Europe

New data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and WHO/Europe show that an estimated 340,000 Europeans had tuberculosis (TB) in 2014, corresponding to a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 people.

Although new TB cases decreased by 4.3% on average between 2010 and 2014, high rates of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB and TB in vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, drug and alcohol abusers and migrants from countries with high numbers of cases of  TB continue to challenge TB elimination.

A quarter of all 480,000 patients with MDR-TB globally were in the European Region in 2014.

The risk that migrants and refugees will be infected or develop TB depends on several factors, including the TB rates in the country of origin. In the Syrian Arab Republic, for example, the rate of new TB cases is 17 per 100,000 population, which is less than half the European Region average of 37. In addition, as TB is not easily transmitted and contacts are limited, there is a low risk that migrants will transmit the disease to resident populations.

The European Region is the only one in the world with a consensus document on the minimum package of cross-border TB control and care interventions. These include ensuring access to medical services, irrespective of a migrant’s registration status, and a non-deportation policy until intensive TB treatment has been completed.

To read the ECDC-WHO report on Tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring in Europe 2015, on the euro.who.int website

To download the Systematic screening for active tuberculosis guide, on the who.int website

Response to the refugee crisis

The Commission is supporting EU countries at the forefront of the refugee crisis with grants from the EU Health Programme of over €5.5 million. This money will help address the common health challenges in the most affected Member States. A grant to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) will be used for testing a personal health record which aims to reconstruct the medical history of migrants and evaluate their health needs. Three additional projects – to be carried out by Médecins du Monde, regional authorities and academics – will receive grants to provide immediate support to Member States such as protocols and clinical guidelines, language and communication tools and capacity building, including training. The Health Programme is also supporting longer-term actions on refugees and migrants’ health and integration and more projects can be envisaged.

To find out more about the Health Programme from ec.europa.eu website

Highest number of new HIV cases in Europe

With HIV infection diagnosed in over 142,000 people in 2014, the WHO European Region recorded the highest number of newly diagnosed infections in 1 year since the start of reporting in the 1980s. The most recent data indicates that the growth of the HIV epidemic is driven by the eastern part of the Region, where the number of new diagnoses has more than doubled during the past decade.

Heterosexual transmission is responsible for the increase in eastern Europe, and transmission through drug injection remains substantial. In the EU and the EEA, sex between men is the predominant mode of HIV transmission. Two in three new HIV infections are among native-born Europeans, while foreign-born individuals, including migrants, represent only one third of HIV diagnoses.

During the past decade, the number of diagnoses of HIV infection in migrants in Europe has declined sharply, and evidence shows that a significant proportion acquire HIV after arrival in Europe.

Almost half of HIV infections throughout the European Region are diagnosed late: this increases the risks for ill health, death and HIV transmission. The high number of AIDS cases in the eastern part of the Region confirms the role of late HIV diagnosis, delayed initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and low treatment coverage.
The number of AIDS cases is going down continuously in the EU and EEA. But two thirds of AIDS diagnoses reported in 2014 occurred at the time of or shortly after the HIV diagnosis, indicating that the immune system of these people had already started to fail. Migrants are more likely to have a late diagnosis, but only half of EU and EEA countries provide free treatment for undocumented migrants.

To read more about HIV in Europe on the euro.who.int website

Personal health records for migrants

The ‘Personal Health Record’ was developed by the Migration Health Division of the International Organization for Migration with support from the European Commission and contributions from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
It is a personal document that includes all the health data and information needed for health professionals to get a comprehensive view of a migrant’s health status and needs.
A Handbook for Health Professionals has also been produced.
To download the Personal health record from the ec.europa.eu website
To download the Handbook for Health Professionals from the same site.