Tuberculosis staging a slow comeback

Immigrants and asylum seekers account for two-thirds of turberculosis cases but many are untreated and remain infectious because of a lack of screening

Health experts are concerned about the rising rate of tuberculosis (TB), particularly among immigrants and asylum seekers.

The number of reported cases of TB has risen from 329 in 2009 to 407 last year, with Danes accounting for only a third of cases.

Politiken newspaper recently reported that a Russian national was found to be carrying a particularly infectious form of the disease after several months in Denmark.

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Infected migrants
The risks posed by immigrants carrying TB has led Sören Thybo, the chief doctor at the department of infectious medicine at the Copenhagen hospital Rigshospital, to call for better screening of asylum seekers in particular.

“The system does not follow [asylum seekers] up, especially not rejected asylum seekers who often go underground after being rejected,” Thybo told Politiken newspaper, adding that the voluntary and free TB screenings offered by the government are not sufficient.

Ebbe Munch-Andersen, the chief medical consultant for the Red Cross’s asylum department, agrees that it is difficult to treat asylum seekers who aren’t granted residency.

“What we can do is make sure that the lung medicine departments in the regions where the immigrants settle follow up,” Munch-Andersen told Politiken.

He added that forcing asylum seekers to attend mandatory tuberculosis check-ups would be politically unpopular however.

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Mandatory screening
Unlike Denmark, Norway screens all asylum seekers for TB and Enhedslisten has asked the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), whether the government is interested in copying this system.

In a letter to Politiken, Krag wrote that the government was waiting for recommendations from the health agency, Sundhedsstyrelsen, on the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory tuberculosis screenings.





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