Refugees fleeing from the war-torn Mediterranean by boat face acute and sometimes fatal cases of pneumonitis, researchers have found, adding that the disease is caused due to the ingestion of fuel.
Pneumonitis is the condition arising out of inflammation in the walls of the air sacs in the lungs.
Europe received as many as one million refugees who had fled the war in 2015. Every week the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean claims the lives of many refugees.
Along with the inadequate medical care in most African countries and the illnesses the refugees bring with them, the flight itself harbours life-threatening risks: human smuggling and the crossing from Libya to Greece or Italy often take place under horrendous conditions.
The smugglers force their passengers to take mixtures containing engine fuel in order to sedate them. The health risks are serious as Gasoline consists of aromatic hydrocarbons and can cause severe inflammation of the lungs and other types of poisoning, the researchers said.
"The symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath initially resemble those of a 'normal' bacterial pneumonia. Consequently, they often go unrecognised during medical treatment after the crossing," said Christoph Spinner from Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich, Germany.
It is also impossible to recognise the cause and the severity of the illness in x-ray and CT images. Moreover, the symptoms often do not appear until weeks later. A further aspect is the difficulty of determining causes due to language barriers between the refugees and doctors.
The study aimed to ensure better patient care with a timely differential diagnosis of the refugees to enable clinical personnel to undertake more targeted treatment efforts at an earlier stage, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal Lancet.
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