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Unhealthy refugees? The story of the migrant as a plague bearer

Unhealthy refugees? The story of the migrant as a plague bearer


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A rumor is circulating in the press and even in the social services. It reads: Immigrants are introducing new diseases as well as long-suppressed epidemics. This assumption is wrong, according to the specialist magazine Lancet. On the contrary, migrants are generally healthier than average.

Biological mistrust

A caution that strangers transmit diseases is biologically justified. Because since our time as hunters and collectors, pathogens that rage in one group have spread through contact with other groups. Introduced epidemics can destroy entire peoples: The American Natives had no immune defense against viruses and bacteria of the Europeans and their animals. Millions died of smallpox, measles or flu.

Racist baiting

Racists take up this real danger in order to rush against the minorities who want to exclude, reject or destroy them. The Nazis deliberately identified Jews with animals that transmit diseases, like rats. Or they even compared them to the pathogens themselves, such as viruses or bacteria. With this association of Jews and deadly microbes, they prepared the Holocaust.

Common myth

Except for neo-Nazis, the idea of ​​infectious migrants does not take on this murderous form today, but prejudice and stereotypes are still part of the mainstream: According to this, immigrants are a burden on the healthcare system, are in poor physical condition and carry a lot of germs. These prejudices are rife even among nurses and doctors.

Healthy survivors

The specialist magazine "Lancet" has now clarified these ideas as wrong. The published studies "The health of a world on the move" analyze the health situation of migrants worldwide on 200 pages. Conclusion: Migrants do not have bad, but mostly very good health. This was the only way to survive the hardships of migration and flight.

More than a billion on the run

More than a billion people are displaced worldwide, three out of four within their home countries. Only 258 million leave their home countries, most of them flee to neighboring countries - from Afghanistan to Iran or from Syria to Lebanon. In 2017, only 3.4 percent were international migrants.

Burden for the health system?

In right-wing populist propaganda, migrants are seen as a burden on national health systems. Health care would hardly function without migrants in many countries in Europe as well as in the USA. A disproportionate number of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa work in nursing and elderly care as well as doctors. More than a third of doctors in the UK studied in another country.

Less sick

An analysis of 15 million people from 92 countries shows that the mortality rate among migrants in the rich countries is lower than that of the ancestral citizens. Migrants suffer less from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and have fewer problems with diseases of the digestive organs, respiratory tract and nerves. Many chronic “civilization diseases” are rare among migrants from poorer countries because they move around and eat more healthily in their places of origin than the average American or the “normal” German.

Paradoxical healthy

The above-average health of migrants even stands out because the new arrivals in the wealthy countries are on average in a worse social situation than the locals. And low social status is usually associated with an increased risk of getting sick. The "healthy migrant effect" even compensates for hard physical work, unemployment and targeted discrimination.

Risk with only a few diseases

Only in very few diseases do migrants have a higher risk of becoming infected. These are hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV. If you come from countries where tuberculosis occurs, you can bring it with you. However, these are diseases in which other migrants in particular are at risk of becoming infected, not the general population. These diseases are also easy to treat.

Deadly diseases?

Long-distance travelers know the fear of becoming infected with deadly tropical diseases such as Ebola. However, the risk of migrants introducing such killers is more than unlikely. Sick people are hardly able to travel, and if they did, they would not survive. With such lethal infections, tourists or infected animals are at much greater risk of being transported from continent to continent.

Initial problems

Refugees suffer above all from problems that arise very quickly in places where people live concentrated - in the refugee home no different than in the army barracks. This includes scabies or diarrhea. These are easy to treat and quickly disappear.

Illnesses or nurses?

So there is hardly any danger that AfD supporters and racists suggest that refugees are spreading pathogens. Instead, haters of migrants have to adjust to the fact that she treats a doctor from Syria in the hospital and that a nurse from Afghanistan enables them to retire with dignity. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information


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