Interventions to reduce the burden of respiratory infections in refugees and migrants

Added March 21, 2022

Citation: Lambert JF, Stete K, Balmford J, et al. Reducing burden from respiratory infections in refugees and immigrants: A systematic review of interventions in OECD, EU, EEA and EU-applicant countries. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2021;21:872.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: Projekt DEAL (for open access).

What is this? Respiratory diseases in refugees and migrants can be exacerbated by poor living conditions and crowding. Information on ways to diagnose, treat and manage these infections might be helpful to policy makers and practitioners.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of interventions for the treatment, diagnosis and management of respiratory tract infections in refugees and migrants in OECD, EU, EEA and EU-applicant countries. They restricted their searches to articles published between 1 January 2000 and 1 October 2019. They included 9 studies, which were conducted in Germany (2 studies), Macedonia (1), Spain (1), Switzerland (1) and the USA (4).

What works: Multilingual information campaigns can increase the uptake of vaccinations for respiratory-related childhood diseases and for influenza among refugees and migrants.

There was limited evidence that hand sanitiser reduced rates of upper respiratory infections.

Hand sanitizer combined with face masks reduced the rate of influenza-type illness in a hard-to-reach migrant neighbourhood.

Implementation of general vaccination strategies in refugees immediately after arrival had a large effect in reducing secondary cases in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease.

Implications: The authors of the review concluded that multilingual health literacy interventions should be considered to increase uptake of vaccinations in refugees and migrants and that immediate vaccinations upon arrival at refugee housings may reduce secondary infections and outbreaks. They stated that well-designed studies are needed on housing and operational standards in refugee and migrant populations early after arrival and on adequate ways to gain informed consent for early vaccinations in mass housings.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of language, place of residence and social capital.


This summary was prepared by Catherine Haynes, edited by Sydney Johnson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the health of refugees and asylum seekers but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the health of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of this summary alone. The text can be shared and re-used without charge, citing Evidence Aid as the source and noting the date on which you took the text.


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