Tuberculosis cases rising with increase in asylum seekers

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Tuberculosis vaccine (Photo: RIVM)Tuberculosis vaccine (Photo: RIVM)

For the first time in years the number of tuberculosis cases in the Netherlands increased last year, according to the national institute for public health and environment RIVM. The increase can completely be attributed to asylum seekers coming from countries where TB is prevalent.

All asylum seekers are checked for TB when they arrive and so far most cases involved not-yet-infectious forms of the disease. By early diagnosis and proper treatment, the spread of the disease can be prevented.

Last year there were 867 TB cases in the Netherlands, compared to 814 in 2014. Three quarters of these patients were not born in the country. The majority, 94, came from Eritrea, followed by Somalia with 90 and Morocco with 62. Tuberculosis is not much more common in Syria than in the Netherlands, which means that Syrians - the biggest group of asylum seekers in the Netherlands - had very little effect on the figures.

The RIVM prepared a national plan to further optimize tuberculosis control in the country. The plan involves reducing the number of TB patients by 90 percent in 2035 by implementing World Health Organization standards. In the next five years the RIVM hopes to reduce TB cases by 25 percent. Measure includes improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment and screening all migrants and asylum seekers for infection.