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Most of Syrians arrived healthy

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OTTAWA—The vast majority of the 26,000 Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada by the end of last month showed up healthy, newly-published government data suggests.

But while the study by Public Health Agency of Canada staff said the newcomers posed no risk to public health, it noted it will take time for chronic medical and mental-health conditions to present and health-care professionals need to remain vigilant.

The Immigration Department has published data on some of the newly-arrived Syrians, but the public health study is the first comprehensive look at the entire group.

The researchers focused on communicable diseases among those resettled in Canada as part of the Liberal program to bring 25,000 people here by the end of February.

All applicants had medical exams as part of the program, though how many were rejected for medical reasons is unknown.

The review found of those accepted, two had potential cases of non-infectious tuberculosis.

None tested positive for syphilis or HIV.

Ten were sent to hospital upon arrival for possible communicable diseases, though none ended up a concern to public health.

Another 54 were hospitalized upon arrival for other urgent reasons.

“Large-scale refugee movements place pressure on health-care systems, both in their immediate response and as part of long-term resettlement efforts,” concluded the study, published this month in the Canadian Communicable Disease Report.

“As Syrians integrate into Canada, meeting their longer-term health-care needs will call for a seamless network of health-care providers, supported by community partners,” it noted.

The study observed refugees tend to under-report chronic health conditions for fear of being rejected, and estimated about five percent of the arriving Syrians have some kind ongoing health-care need.

Mental health issues also will take time to surface, the report said.

It also found a number of children arrived with illnesses, including cancers, seizures, and developmental disorders.

Malnutrition and children with intellectual disabilities also were observed.

The incidence of those appears to be higher than in the general Canadian population, said Dr. Anna Banerji, the pediatrician who screened Syrian children as they landed in Toronto.

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