Migrants may help fight disease, not spread it: study

Migrants do more to help fight disease than spread it, according to a new study released Wednesday that seeks to debunk the idea of immigrants as carriers of illness. 

"There is no evidence to show that migrants are spreading disease,” Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health told NBC News. "That is a false argument that is used to keep migrants out.”

Twenty-four researchers conducted a two-year report on the health impacts of migration and if migration contributes to the spread of disease. The final report, which points out that immigrants make up a significant portion of health-care workers, analyzed nearly 100 studies.


The study found that international immigrants are less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases than people native to the country they move to. Diseases immigrants are more likely to die from, such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV are mostly spread within the immigrant community and not to the general population, according to the study published in the Lancet medical journal.

The report said the transmission of such diseases to the larger population was “negligible.”

"It’s not migrants or migration itself that is spreading disease. It may be the situations that they are in and the lack of access to basic care that may exacerbate the situation," Spiegel said.

The report found that roughly 250 million people are moving from one country to another throughout the world. Nearly 1 billion were on the move both within and between countries. The study was commissioned by University College London and the Lancet.

A separate study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that 16 percent of U.S. health-care workers were born outside of the country, according to NBC News.