Health: Malaysia

Travel-Health

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and the Smart Traveller health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Malaysia has a comprehensive range of medical services available in major cities. Services are more limited in rural areas. Foreigners must pay for services delivered by government hospitals.

Smoke Haze: Smoke haze often occurs across parts of Malaysia, usually from June to October. However, it can occur at any time. High pollution levels were recorded in parts of Malaysia in September 2015 due to forest fires. Australians travelling to Malaysia may wish to monitor the haze situation and any health warnings issued by the Malaysian government and seek their own medical advice. When haze levels are high, the Malaysian authorities recommend limiting outdoor activity. Regular air quality reports are available from the Malaysian Department of the Environment website.

The standard of medical facilities is adequate in major cities but can be limited in rural areas. Public hospital services can be limited and access slow. Private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities. Most private hospitals require a cash deposit or a confirmation of insurance prior to admission and expect immediate payment for services.

Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. You should seek advice from local authorities regarding seasonal bathing conditions, recommended precautions and other potential dangers.

Malaria is a risk in rural areas but is less common in urban and coastal areas. Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne illnesses (including chikungunya fever and filariasis) also occur. Dengue fever is prevalent, including in major urban areas, with more serious outbreaks reported from time to time. There was a 23 per cent increase in cases of dengue in the first half of 2015 (compared with the same period in 2014). Malaysian authorities expect that reports of dengue cases could increase significantly in 2016 due to current weather conditions. The risk of contracting these infections rises during the wet season. We recommend that you consider malaria prophylaxis where appropriate and that you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Reported cases of Japanese encephalitis have increased over recent years. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and under-cooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Avoid temporary ‘black henna’ tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information see the Australasian College of Dermatologists’ website.

The website of the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra has information on regulations for importing prescription and non-prescription medication. Some medications require a letter from the prescribing doctor. You should always keep your medication in its original packaging and respect the restrictions on importation of prescription and non-prescription medication.

Did you know that Swinburne offers pre-departure travel medical advise, support and services via SwinHealth? There is a wealth of important pre-travel information that you will need to become familiar with before departure.

Other, very important steps to consider before attending the pre-departure workshop (1) are:

  • Consult your doctor or SwinHealth for pre-travel preparation at least six weeks before you travel;
  • Make sure you have updated your vaccine needs for travelling to Malaysia such as booster shots or new shots required;
  • Inform your unit Convenor of any medical conditions that may impact your time away and/or the group; so a management plan can be put in place for best outcomes;
  • Prepare your medications for air travel: these must remain in the original medicine bottles that clearly label your doctor’s and your information. For example, prepare your medicines for Asthma, Diabetes, Epilepsy and for severe allergies as well as any regular medication you will need while away. You may not be able to acquire script refills while in-country so make sure you have enough medicines for your travel duration;
  • Pharmacies in Malaysia are well stocked. However, if you prefer brands that you are familiar with, you can consider preparing a First Aid kit for your time in-country: you can include things like: hydrolite, panadol, antiseptic cream, gastro stop, mosquito repellent (make sure it has no more than 40% Deet, stronger than this may irritate your skin – and use the roll on or cream version for better results if you can purchase this);
  • Be aware of the climate as the most common illnesses and visits to the hospital by students while in-country are: dehydration and gastro;
  • Update your first aid training;
  • Review the University’s insurance policy and make sure you’re aware of what is not covered;
  • Consider taking out extra insurance for health and accidents.
smartraveller.gov.au. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: http://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/malaysia [Accessed 28 April. 16]
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