Immigrants and infectious diseases are a major concern in many areas of the world. Here is a list of the most common diseases carried by immigrants.
Large numbers of people are on the move across the globe, and infectious diseases are moving with them. Which diseases are they? How can we stop them? What sort of screening should be in place for immigrants?
Here is a list of the most common infectious diseases associated with immigration:
Injected by Anopheles mosquitoes, these protozoa infect our liver and red blood cells, destroying them. Periodic fevers, chills and severe body aches result, along with anemia.
New rapid tests can diagnose the malaria quickly, so that individuals can be treated and avoid infecting mosquitoes in the new areas that they enter.
Typhoid fever results when Salmonella bacteria enter the bloodstream from the colon.
Salmonella bacteria reside in water that is been contaminated by feces from humans or animals, and in poorly cooked eggs and chickens. Human chronic carriers may shed huge numbers of the bacteria in their stool, contaminating rivers, wells or other water supplies when they defecate in them or touch food with unwashed hands.
One in 10 people with cholera will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. As with Salmonella, water and hands contaminated by diarrhea can cause rapid spread of the disease.
Hepatitis A and E are present in the stool of individuals soon after they become infected. Large numbers of new cases can occur in places where people are unable to wash their hands and touch food eaten by others.
Hepatitis B and C are present in blood and semen of infected persons. These are spread by needle-sharing, sex and blood transfusions.
In places where violence has occurred, open wounds can be a source for transmission of Hepatitis C, which is 100 times more contagious than HIV. Virus in wound fluids can enter through a small break in a caregiver’s skin to infect them.
Transmission through sex by persons who do not even know that they are infected is common in many third world countries (and still occurs in more advanced countries). Unborn children can also be infected, and testing of all pregnant women is advised.
The tests for these organisms are very sensitive, and are important in diagnosing the infections early (before HIV causes severe immune system damage, and before syphilis enters the brain or causes harm to the fetus).
Treatment for both is now available, but may be expensive in the case of HIV.
Highly contagious if active, TB is frightening. Antibiotic resistant strains are now common in many parts of the world. Testing is not always reliable, and problems are already advanced if the person has an abnormal chest x-ray.
Isolation and TB therapy with several antibiotics at once are necessary for control.
Hopefully, countries receiving immigrants and the countries of their origin will be able to afford to treat ill individuals adequately. Medications for HIV and TB in particular can be very expensive and in short supply.
Tropical diseases like Leprosy, Sleeping Sickness (trypanosomiasis), Chagas disease, Filariasis, and Schistosomiasis are not easily transmitted to others, but may cause health problems later for international travelers who do not receive medical attention.
Immigrant/refugee screening tests:
Acute hepatitis panel
Sputum ×3 if chest x-ray abnormal
Over the and parasite exam on stool
Albendazole/ivermectin empiric therapy
Vision and hearing assessments for children