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Prominent Dermatologists and Venereologists discuss refugee crisis at EADV Symposium in Athens, Greece.


23 May 2016


Health & Consumers
Social Europe & Jobs
Justice & Home Affairs

Brussels, 23/05/16. The  13thSymposium  of  the  European  Academy  of  Dermatology  and Venereology,  which  opened  its  doors  last  Thursday  19th May  and  took  place  in  Athens, Greece, came to a conclusion yesterday, after more than 2,000 participants benefited from a  series  of  scientific  sessions  focusing  on  the  latest  developments  in  Dermatology  and Venereology.

“It’s  time  to  talk  about  the  refugee  crisis  in  Europe  in  relation  to  our specialty,”  said  Prof. Roderick Hay, Professor of Cutaneous Infection at King’s College London and Adviser to the International  Foundation  for  Dermatology,  who  was  the  keynote  speaker  at  the  plenary session  of  the  Symposium.  “Skin  diseases  are  common  in  the  world's  poorest  and  most disadvantaged  communities  leading  to  discomfort,  disfigurement  and  further marginalisation. The unhygienic and overcrowded conditions in which refugees have to live, lead to the development and spread of skin diseases. However, many of these have simple remedies.  It’s  our  responsibility  as  Dermatologists  to  provide  care  and  also  train  the  aid workers who work in refugee camps to proper diagnose and to use the simple cost-effective treatments and preventive measures that are available.”

“Refugees  and  migrants  often  come  from  communities  affected  by  war  or  economic  crisis and undertake long, exhausting journeys that increase their risks for diseases. Therefore, at arrival, the most common skin diseases seen are infections related to poor hygiene and living conditions in overcrowded spaces, such as scabies, pediculosis and bacterial skin infections. Scald injuries and other infected traumas of the skin are also common, as well as dermatitis due to sun exposure and contact with sea water”, added Dr. Valeska Padovese, during her talk.

Dr.  Federica  Dassoni  brought  up  the  challenge  of  recognising  skin  diseases  that  are  not common in Europe anymore.  “We should be  able to recognise, or at least suspect diseases that  we  are  not  used  to  seeing  anymore,  for  example  cutaneous  leishmaniasis  and cutaneous tuberculosis,” she highlighted.

“We should be vigilant and make sure we treat refugees and migrants for genetic and noninfectious skin diseases for their  own  benefit.  We  need  to  also  keep  in  mind  the  need  to protect  them,  in  addition  to  the  indigenous  population,  from  possible  infectious  skin diseases,  such  as  superficial  mycoses,  leprosy  and  yaws.  Their syphilis serology may be positive even when they do not have or have had syphilis. This may be due to other infections than Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)” pointed out Dr. Bernard Naafs during his remarks.

Dr. Aldo Morrone elaborated on the issue of STIs: “Conflict and emergencies can disrupt HIV services; however, the prevalence of HIV infection is generally low among people from the Middle East and North Africa. Hence, there is a low risk that HIV will be brought to Europe by migrants  from  these  countries.  Despite  a  decline  during  the  past  decade,  migrants  still constitute 35% of new HIV cases in the European Union and the European Economic Area; however,  there  is  increasing  evidence  that  some  migrants  acquire  HIV  after  their  arrival.

On the other hand, as many  developing countries have a high burden of viral hepatitis, the increasing influx of refugees from highly endemic countries is changing the disease burden in Europe.”

When migrants and refugees are on the move, they often experience disrupted or uncertain supplies  of  safe  food  and  water,  as  well  as  poor  sanitation  conditions,  especially  under difficult  and  sometimes  desperate  circumstances.  Border  or  arrival  points  frequently  lack sufficient  numbers  of  sanitation  facilities  and  washrooms;  drinking  water  i s  often  not available  in  sufficient  amounts;  hand  washing  with  soap  and  personal  hygiene,  including laundry,  is  often  compromised.  Waste  bins  and  regular  removal  of  waste  in  reception centres  are  insufficient,  posing  additional  health  threats,  such  as  flies,  mosquitoes  and rodents, which find breeding places in these areas and can transmit diseases or their bites can become infected.

“Refugees and migrants have a culture and a dignity that must be respected. They are not only individuals in need of help, culturally unable to get over a condition of misery.  They are persons who have a lot to teach us in terms of solidarity, yearning for justice, and a wish to improve our society,” concluded Dr. Morrone.

Prof. Jan  Gutermuth  from  the  Vrije  Universiteit  Brussel  (VUB,  Brussels)  explained  that torture has been reported in ¾ of all countries around the world during the last years and refugees often stem from vulnerable groups. Torture survivors usually do not speak about their fate, even to medical doctors. They can show distinctive skin findings, which should be recognized,  because  even  if  the  skin  has  healed,  torture  survivors  often  suffer  from  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has debilitating effects including anxiety, depression, self isolation, withdrawal, memory and concentration impairments, nightmares and many more. In addition, neurologic or orthopedic complications can arise from torture and therefore it is important  for  health  care  providers  to  refer  the  victims  to  appropriate  medical  and psychological help.

Nikos Manaras
Senior EU Affairs and Media Coordinator EADV
38 Avenue General De Gaulle
1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 650 00 90
Tel (Direct): + 32 2 650 00 96
Mobile: +32 475 264649

About EADV

Founded  in  1987,  EADV  is  a  non-profit  association  whose  vision  is  to  be  the  premier  European  Dermato-Venereology Society, with the key aims of improving the quality of patient care, providing continuing medical education (CME) for all Dermato-Venereologists in Europe, and advocacy on behalf of the specialty and patients.

The  membership  concept  has  been  broadened  to  include  all  areas  of  Europe  and  elsewhere,  and  the  development  of alliances and affiliations with other organisations.

For further information about the Academy, please contact us under +32 2 650 00 90 or visit   


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