Refugees and asylum seekers should be screened for tuberculosis, says doctor

Respiratory specialist calling for mandatory check of new arrivals

Niels Seer Holm, the head doctor at the respiratory medicine department at Gentofte Hospital, is calling for all refugees coming into Denmark to submit to a mandatory screening for tuberculosis.

Holm is concerned that many of the refugees are fleeing war and camps and may be spreading infectious diseases like tuberculosis in the country.

“This is done, for example, in the Netherlands and Norway and has been standard practice for many years,” Holm told DR Nyheder.

Voluntary check not good enough
Currently, asylum-seekers are offered a medical check-up with a nurse at one of the Danish Red Cross reception centres. They are only examined further if they are in a high-risk group or during the conversation specify symptoms suggestive of tuberculosis.

According to Holm, that is simply not good enough.

“Many of the refugees from Syria, which does not have a high rate of tuberculosis, are well enough,” said Holm.

“But we know there are people who have been in camps in countries where there is a high risk of contracting tuberculosis. It is only natural to suspect that some of them may be infected.”

READ MORE: Tuberculosis staging a slow comeback

The authorities estimate that over 78,000 refugees have arrived in Denmark since September. So far, over 13,000 of them have sought asylum, but the numbers are increasing since Sweden introduced border controls three weeks ago.