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HEALTH

Can foreigners in Denmark access free health care?

People who move to or reside in Denmark have the right to access the country’s public health system, while different rules apply to those in the country on a more temporary basis.

Hillerød hospital near Copenhagen
Hillerød sygehus

All persons who are registered as resident in Denmark and have been issued with a personal registration number are entitled to all public health services.

The rights to public health services are stated on the yellow health card itself, which is issued by the municipality in which you reside.

Denmark’s health services included under the public health system provide you with a family doctor or GP as well as free specialist consultations and treatments under the national health system, should you be referred for these.

You can also receive subsidies for medicine and medical services including some dental treatment, physiotherapy, chiropractor treatment and psychological consultations.

It should be noted that, as previously reported by The Local, foreign nationals can experience extended waiting times on residence applications in Denmark. Since they may not have automatic access to the public health system during this time, some decide to take out private health insurance to cover the waiting period.

READ ALSO: Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period

In some cases, you can also use Denmark’s public health system if you are not a permanent or temporary resident of the country.

This includes people who work in Denmark but live in another EU or EEA country (the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, who may be entitled to a special health card which provides access to the health system on the same footing as residents.

The card can be issued to persons who do not live in Denmark but are “socially insured” in the country due to one of a number of reasons, including:

  • Working in Denmark while resident in another EU, EEA country or Switzerland
  • Employed by a Danish company and stationed to work in another EU, EEA country or Switzerland
  • Receiving early retirement pay (efterløn) from the Danish state
  • Are employed on an EU contract and have selected Danish social insurance
  • Work on a ship which sails under the Danish flag
  • Are a family member of someone in one of the above categories and are not covered by the public health system in your home country.

It’s also possible to apply for and be granted the special health card if you are staying in Denmark without a personal registration (CPR) number, in some cases. These can include:

  • EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who work for Nato, the WHO or another international organisation in Denmark
  • People who work at EU, EEA or Swiss embassies or consulates in Denmark
  • Non- EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who work for Nato, the WHO or another international organisation in Denmark may also be encompassed by Danish or Nordic law in some cases
  • Family members of people in the above categories who do not have social health insurance in their home countries.

The card is also issued to people who normally live in Denmark but are residing outside of the country for up to one year, and are therefore removed from the Danish personal registration system. Examples of such a situation include students on international programmes, people visiting families, or au pairs or volunteers who work abroad for a limited period.

The special health card is issued for up to two years at a time and does not cost anything. It can be applied for here.

It should also be noted that people from EU countries may be able to use the EU’s European Health Insurance (EHIC) card in Denmark.

British nationals who moved to Denmark after 1st January 2021 are not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and so cannot use the EHIC in Denmark.

However, Britons can use the UK’s new Global Health Insurance card (GHIC) to access emergency healthcare in Denmark.

Sources: borger.dk (1), (2), (3)

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HEALTH

Ticks in Denmark: How to protect yourself and what to do if you get bitten

Thousands of people in Denmark are bitten by ticks each year, especially during the summer months. Although most people are left unaffected, an estimated three thousand cases a year in Denmark turn into Lyme disease.

Ticks in Denmark: How to protect yourself and what to do if you get bitten

The humid and warm weather Denmark has experienced so far this year could make ticks even more common than usual this summer, an official said.

Ticks (skovflåter) can be found all over Denmark in forests, meadows, and long grass. They are particularly active during the summer months and increase in number if the weather has been warm and humid. So if you’re hiking, camping or berry-picking this summer, there’s a risk of getting a tick bite (skovflåtbid).

What are ticks?

Ticks are small, spider-like creatures which vary in size, usually between 1mm to 1cm long. They do not fly or jump but climb on to animals or humans as they brush past. Once a tick bites into the skin, it feeds on blood for a few days before dropping off. In Denmark, ticks are often found on rodents or deer and they are particularly prevalent between May and October. 

Lyme Disease (Borreliose

In Denmark, the most common disease ticks transmit is Lyme disease and around 15 per cent of ticks in Denmark’s forests carry this.

It is not known exactly how many people in Denmark get Lyme disease every year, but it is estimated that there are a few thousand cases.

However this is a very small percentage of those who have been bitten by a tick. Broadcaster TV2 has reported that in 98 per cent of cases, people do not get ill from a tick bite.

“If you remove the tick within 24 hours, you most likely won’t get Lyme disease, as it takes longer than this for the bacteria, called borrelia, to transfer to the bloodstream,” Peter Andersen, senior medical officer at the State Serum Institute’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Prevention department, told The Local.

Andersen said that humid and warm weather in Denmark so far this year has caused a high number of ticks.

For those who do develop Lyme disease, the symptoms usually appear between two and six weeks after the bite, but sometimes longer.

Some people can get flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. Children may complain of stomach ache, lose their appetite or lack energy.

But the most obvious sign of Lyme disease is a red circular rash around the bite.

“If you’ve had a tick bite, observe the area to check you don’t get a circular rash, which can indicate you’ve been infected. If this happens, contact a doctor to get treatment. Most infections will be treated with penicillin,” Andersen said, adding that treating Lyme disease is straight forward.

“But the danger is if you don’t acknowledge the rash, then the disease can spread to the nervous system,” Andersen warned.

This is called neuroborreliosis and occurs in around one in ten of of Lyme disease cases.

The symptoms of neuroborreliosis typically appear as headaches and neck or back stiffness and radiating nerve pain or muscle paralysis, typically in the face.

People with neuroborreliosis need to be treated in hospital.

There were 216 cases of neuroborreliosis in Denmark last year, according to the State Serum Institute, the country’s infectious disease control agency. That’s an increase from 197 cases in 2020 and 171 cases in 2019.

Most cases each year are detected between July and September and neuroborreliosis most frequently occurs in children aged 5-10 and adults aged 60-70.

TBE – Tick-borne encephalitis (flåtbåren hjernebetændelse)

This is more rare and is a viral brain infection caused by a particular tick bite. Flu-like symptoms can occur a week or more after the bite and can develop to include nausea, dizziness, and in around a third of cases, severe problems. 

In Denmark, TBE cases tend to only occur on Baltic Sea island Bornholm, where there are around 3 cases a year. There have been two reported cases in North Zealand in 2008 and 2009.

In Denmark, a TBE vaccination is recommended for people who travel regularly in areas with TBE. There isn’t a vaccination for Lyme disease.

What if I get bitten by a tick?

If you do find a tick, you should remove it quickly with a special tick remover (available at all pharmacies), tweezers or your nail. The sooner you can do this, the lower the risk the tick will be able to infect you.

The important thing is making sure you remove the whole tick, by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling slowly. Then wash and clean the bite, and contact a doctor if you’re worried.

Prevention

If you’ll be spending time in wooded areas with long grass, especially those known to have a high tick presence, you should wear boots along with long sleeved light clothing so you can see the ticks, and tuck trousers into socks. Mosquito repellent has also been proven to help deter ticks.

“Proper clothing is a good prevention but it’s not always realistic to wear long sleeves and trousers when it’s warm. So if you have been outside in nature, you should check yourself in the evening or get a family member to check you for ticks,” Andersen suggested to The Local.

Ticks tend to bite around thin areas of the skin such as kneecaps, groin, armpits and hairline. In children, they can often be found on their scalp and behind the ears.

“Ticks are very small and look like a tiny dot so they can be easily missed. They start to enlarge when they suck blood and then the red rash can appear,” Andersen said. 

Despite their high presence, ticks shouldn’t put you off enjoying Denmark’s nature this summer; keeping vigilant to the tiny black insects should keep any tick-related illness at bay.

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