Infectious Diseases: Refugees Present No Relevant Risk

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Changed on: 02.10.2017

The World Health Organization (WHO) has clearly stated that there is no systematic connection between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, as opposed to widely-held perceptions to the contrary.

Of course, this does not mean that refugees cannot get or be sick. Infectious diseases are widespread. Refugees have long, exhausting journeys behind them; clean water and food and opportunities to wash themselves or their clothes are rare in such circumstances. Cramped conditions during refugee treks and in refugee reception centres favour the transmission of pathogens.

More information

The World Health Organization (WHO) has clearly stated that there is no systematic connection between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, as opposed to widely-held perceptions to the contrary.

Of course, this does not mean that refugees cannot get or be sick. Infectious diseases are widespread. Refugees have long, exhausting journeys behind them; clean water and food and opportunities to wash themselves or their clothes are rare in such circumstances. Cramped conditions during refugee treks and in refugee reception centres favour the transmission of pathogens.

More information

Overview of the incidence of selected infectious diseases in Austria

The images below depict the infectious diseases that may result in cases of illness due to the current migration wave. The outbreaks reported are updated on a monthly basis for transparency purposes.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease which is not easy to catch: it would take several hours in a closed room with a person suffering from active tuberculosis to get an infection. Around 650 cases are documented in Austria every year.

There were 436 cases of TB reported in Austria in 2015 (January to end of September), 209 cases of which affected people from Austria, other EU citizens, people from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, while the remaining 227 cases affected people of other nationalities.  In comparison, 447 cases were reported in 2014 (January to end of September), 222 of which affected people from Austria, other EU countries, from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, while the 225 remaining cases affected people from other countries.

Monthly number of cases of tuberculosis in Austria 2013/2014/2015



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    Shigellosis

    This diarrhoeral disease is either transmitted from human-to-human directly or via contaminated food or water, as well as a contaminated environment (e.g. while cleaning toilet facilities). It is found throughout the world. The disease is mostly found in Austria as a holiday souvenir from trips to countries with poor hygiene conditions. Shigellosis can be treated easily.

    There were 87 shigellosis cases reported in Austria in 2015 (January to end of November): 53 cases affected Austrians, 34 cases affected individuals of other nationalities. Seventy-three cases of shigellosis were documented in 2014 (January to end of November); 64 cases affected Austrians and 9 cases affected other nationalities.

    Information provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on shigellosis in refugees in Europe 

    Eurosurveillance, Shigellosis in refugees, Austria

    Information on shigellosis (only available in German)

    Monthly number of cases of Shigella in Austria 2013/2014/2015



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      Malaria

      Malaria is found in many tropical and subtropical regions. The classic high-risk area for malaria is tropical Africa. However, malaria is also commonly found in India, Sri Lanka, many parts of Far East Asia and the Amazon region.
      About 60 to 90 cases of malaria are registered in Austria every year, following trips to these regions.

      Monthly number of cases of Malaria in Austria 2013/2014/2015



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        Hepatitis A

        Hepatitis A is found all over the world. The human body is the main carrier and the disease is transmitted by contact with others and through food, water or items contaminated with hepatitis A. Typical symptoms include nausea, abdominal pains and jaundice (usually disappears completely).

        Monthly number of cases of Hepatitis A in Austria 2013/2014/2015



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