HEALTH, HEALTH CARE AND DISEASES IN MALAYSIA

HEALTH IN MALAYSIA

Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.28 years, country comparison to the world: 112 male: 71.51 years, female: 77.24 years (2013 est.). "Life expectancy" is an abstract and complicated concept and complex formula that attempts to predict the lifespan of children born today by subjecting a hypothetical child born today to the current risk of dying in each bracket he or she matures through until, in effect, the accumulated risk of death is 100 percent.

In 1999, a Malaysian man named Omar Abas claimed he was the oldest person in the world, at age 141. He said he was born on September 16, 1857. He didn’t have a birth certificate but the registration office where he lived verified the date. If the birthday were correct he would be more than a two decades older than the official world’s oldest person. Omar said he owed his long life to simple living, moderate exercise and a simple diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

Maternal mortality rate: 29 deaths/100,000 live births (2010), country comparison to the world: 125. Infant mortality rate: total: 14.12 deaths/1,000 live births, country comparison to the world: 118; male: 16.32 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 11.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2013 est.) Children under the age of 5 years underweight: 12.9 percent (2006), country comparison to the world: 58. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Health indicators and infrastructure have improved substantially since independence. These improvements are often attributed to improvements in public nutrition, sanitation, and access to health services.

Health Care in Malaysia

Health expenditures: 4.4 percent of GDP (2010), country comparison to the world: 156. Physicians density: 0.94 physicians/1,000 population (2008). Hospital bed density: 1.8 beds/1,000 population (2010). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Health care system ranking of 191 countries: 49, compared to 1 for France, 37 for the United States and 191 for Sierra Leone. [Source: World Health Organization, 2000]

Malaysia invested heavily in public health and saw GNPs soar, family size shrink and lifespan lengthen. Health services at public hospitals are highly subsidized and free to persons who cannot afford the costs, but private expenditures account for more than half of total health spending. The Ministry of Health operates public health services, and from 2000 to 2004 the ministry’s budget increased from approximately 6.3 percent to 8 percent of the national budget. In 2004 there were 1,969 public dental clinics, 1,924 rural clinics, 165 mobile clinics, 93 maternity and child health clinics, 125 government hospitals, and 218 private hospitals and “maternity/nursing homes.” There were also 18,246 doctors, or one doctor for every 1,402 persons. [Source:Library of Congress, 2006]

Health services are more available in urban than in rural areas, but Malaysia has been developing “telehealth” and “telemedicine” for rural populations. In an effort to overcome a dearth of medical personnel, the government has built an “information technology-based” hospital in which patient data are stored in a central database rather than in paper files so that doctors can spend more time with patients than on paperwork.

There is a resistance to donating organs based on cultural and religious taboos. It is almost more of an Asian thing than a Muslim thing. People are reluctant to have organs removed before burial although this not the case in other Muslim countries.

Conjoined Twins Separated in Malaysia

In July 2012, the conjoined twins, Muaiman and Muaimin Azli, were separated at Hospital Kuala Lumpur in an operation involving a 60-strong medical team, including 19 surgeons and anaesthetists. "With proper rehabilitation, both boys can lead a fairly normal and independent life," Zakaria Zahari, the head of the paediatric surgery at the Malaysian government hospital was quoted as saying. Mr Zakaria said the case was the hospital's most complex so far because the twins shared genitalia and a bladder. "The sexual and reproductive functions of both twins will be assessed further as they grow," he said. [Source: Agencies, July 28, 2012]

Both boys are in a stable condition following the July 14 operation. Muaimin will get a prosthetic leg, while Muaiman will keep both of his legs. "For now, I'm just glad that they are safe," the twins' father, 40-year-old mechanic Azli Sabran, told The Star newspaper.A hospital official confirmed the surgery was successful but could not immediately provide further details. The twins are the 14th conjoined pair to be separated at the hospital and the 21st in the country Mr Zakaria said one in every 250,000 to 500,000 live births in Malaysia, which has a population of 28 million people, involved conjoined twins but not all survived, especially if they were joined at the heart. Kuala Lumpur Hospital also became the first government hospital to perform a kidney transplant between a married couple with different blood groups in an eight-hour surgery on Tuesday, the New Straits Times reported.

Kidney Transplants in Malaysia China

There is a 16 year waiting list for kidneys in Malaysia. Even though there was a plentiful supply in 1999, for example, considering the high number of traffic fatalities that year, kidneys were transplanted from only eight donors in 1999.

Many people go overseas, particularly China, for kidney transplants. As of the early 2000s, over 1,000 Malaysians had received kidney transplants in China.

One Malaysian man from Malacca watched from his hospital bed in Chongqing China as 18 men doomed to execution were shown on television, knowing that one of them would provide him with a kidney. He never learned the name of the man who gave him a kidney he only was told he was 19 and was arrested for drug trafficking. The Malaysia man paid $10,000 for the procedure plus his travel and hospital costs. Those who have received kidneys say they are too desperate to worry about ethical implications of what they have done. See China

Medical Tourism in Malaysia

Rough number of medical tourists based on data from 2010 and 2011: 1) Thailand, 1.2 million; 2) Singapore, 600,000; 3) the United States, 400,000; 4) India, 390,000; 5) Malaysia , 380,000; 6) Hungary, 360,000; 7) Japan, 80,000. [Source: Japan Tourism Agency]

According to Healthy Travel Media the average cost in Malaysia of: 1) heart-valve replacement with bypass surgery is $13,400 compared to $75,000 in the U.S., $9,500 in India, and $25,000 in Thailand; 2) hip replacement surgery is $7,500 compared to $33,000 in the U.S., $11,500 in India and $12,700 in Thailand; and 3) knee replacement surgery is $12,000 compared to $30,000 in the U.S., $10,200 in India and $11,500 in Thailand; The costs include hospital and doctor fees but not travel and lodging. [Source: New York Times, March 21, 2009; U.S. News and World Report, May 12, 2008]

In Malaysia: 1) coronary artery bypass surgery costs $12,000 compared to $75,000 to $133,000 in the United States; 2) prostrate surgery (TURP procedure) costs $4,600 compared to $10,000 to $16,000 in the United States; 3) gastric bypass surgery costs $12,700 compared to $35,000 to $52,000 in the United States; and 4) a face lift costs $6,400 compared to $10,500 to $16,000 in the United States. [Source: Patients Beyond Borders, U.S. News and World Report, May 12, 2008]

Ten Reasons to Choose Malaysia as a Healthcare Destination

According to the MHTC (Malaysia Health Care Travel Council): Whether you're looking for a small cosmetic procedure and a big holiday or major surgery along with a short getaway, there are countless reasons that make Malaysia the ideal destination for your healthcare needs. Here are 10 reasons why. 1) Affordable procedures: Malaysia's favourable exchange rate and the cost of healthcare services is at an extensively lower cost than that of other countries. If you're coming from a Western country such as the United States or Britain, medical procedures in Malaysia will generally cost a fraction of the price as compared to prices back home. 2) Modern facilities: Extensive investments have been made to ensure that all medical centres are equipped with modern facilities, internationally accredited hospitals of Malaysia are capable of handling the latest techniques and procedures. These state-of-the-art facilities focus on what matters: more effective, efficient and pleasant solutions for patients.

3) Professionals with internationally recognised credentials: Doctors in Malaysia are highly experienced. Having been involved in numerous groundbreaking procedures and revolutionary researches which have garnered several international recognitions, Malaysia boasts a high number of specialists with decades of experiences in their relevant fields. 4) Short waiting time: With all medical centres equipped with modern facilities, medical centres in Malaysia are able to provide shorter waiting time. Patients may be hospitalised upon arrival, and examinations and work-up tests are usually addressed promptly. Organised and efficient patient registration systems eliminate or reduce patient queues to ensure treatment and medication is quickly dispensed so patients can choose to either return home or recuperate amidst some of Malaysia's lush rainforests and pristine beaches.

5) Social & political stability: Since its independence, Malaysia has boasts one of South-East-Asia's most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability. Its multi-ethnic society encompasses Malays, Chinese and Indians who co-exist in harmony. Malaysians are peace-loving and friendly people. Visitors can be ensured of respect and greeted with sincere smiles throughout his or her stay. 6) Ease of entry: The Malaysian government has made it easier for visitors seeking health treatments to enter the country. With the relevant letter from the medical centre at which you will be receiving your medical treatment, you may enjoy up to six months of visa extension.

7) Low cost of living: Prices in Malaysia are reasonable and affordable, be it accommodation, food or even shopping. 8) Accommodation: From comfortable and affordable hotels to five-star accommodations, Malaysia provides you with a choice to budget or splurge. Hotels start from as low as USD43 to USD143.20 per night depending on its star rating. Alternatively, if your family is accompanying you for treatment, there is also an option to rent a serviced apartment. Prices range around USD115 to USD172 depending on the size of the apartment. Service apartments in Malaysia operate similar services to a hotel. 9) Excellent infrastructure: Public and private transportation is readily available throughout Malaysia. Monorails, taxis, trains and buses are available at regular intervals, while cars can be easily rented for those who desire extra control over their travelling. Besides coaches and trains, low cost flights are also available to hundreds of locations outside of Kuala Lumpur. In essence, all cities in Malaysia are very well connected. 10) Lots to see and do: The multi-cultural society that makes up Malaysia has contributed to the culinary legacy of Malaysian food. Tourists can look forward to affordable Malay, Chinese, Indian and Portuguese dishes that offer an exotic experience unique to the country.

Malaysia's Health Rules and Regulations: Malaysia's Ministry of Health works together with various medical bodies to help ensure the quality and safety standards of healthcare are adhered to throughout the country. All private medical institutions in Malaysia are required to be licensed under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 and are compliant to a regulatory body working closely with the Ministry of Health who monitors, regulates and coordinates these hospitals.

Traditional Healers in Malaysia

Spiritual healers are known as bomoh or dukun. They preside over curing ceremonies in which they go into trances. Patients are sometimes treated with a body smoking ritual in which the bomoh calls on friendly spirits to remove the source of the illness. Bomoh also employ a wide range of potions and herbal medicines. Bine-setting if often done by local healers. In many placed midwives still assist in the delivery of babies.

Some traditional medical practices in Malaysia are pretty bizarre and creepy. In October 2004, Associated Press reported: “A practitioner of traditional medicine in Malaysia was arrested for allegedly using kidnapped children as human guinea pigs while trying to find new cures, a newspaper reported on Sunday. The man was detained with four children. The man was detained with four others after a 14-year-old boy escaped from a house on October 4, and told police he had been held captive for three months and was the subject of bizarre experiments. The boy claimed that in one of the experiments, leeches were placed all over his body. [Source: AP, October 2004]

DISEASES IN MALAYSIA

Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high: food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea. Vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria. Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Increasing deaths from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes suggest increasing health problems associated with high-income countries, but the country is also still affected by health problems that are more common in low-income countries. In 2004 the most common communicable diseases were dengue fever, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

A DDT campaign in Malaysia was successful in eliminating mosquitoes and reducing malaria as a threat. It also brought about an increase in bed bugs. It turns out that a certain kind of ant eats bed bugs. The DDT killed the ants but not the bed bugs.

Malaysia Battles Worst-ever Dengue Outbreak in 2009

In January 2009, AFP reported: “Malaysia said it was battling its worst ever outbreak of dengue fever, with 14 deaths and some 5,062 cases of the mosquito-borne disease in less than a month. The crisis, which is centred on Kuala Lumpur and populous Selangor state surrounding the capital, compares to just five deaths and 2,855 cases in the same period a year ago. "This is the worst outbreak ever but this is not just a Malaysian problem, but a global problem," health ministry director-general Ismail Merican told a press conference. [Source: AFP, January 29, 2009]

Ismail said that despite the crisis, householders were refusing to allow local authorities to enter their premises to conduct pesticide "fogging" to kill the aedes mosquito which transmits dengue fever. He urged residents to keep their environment clean and remove rubbish and pots that collect water where mosquitoes can breed. "It is important for the public to come together to destroy the mosquito breeding grounds," he said. Malaysia's health minister has warned that the dengue outbreak could damage the economy by discouraging tourism and lowering productivity.

Dengue fever is endemic in Southeast Asia and cases in Malaysia have surged since 2003. In 2008 there were 49,335 cases in Malaysia with 112 deaths, compared to 48,846 cases with 98 deaths in 2007.

See Dengue fever factsanddetails.com

Malaysia Releases GM Mosquitoes to Combat Dengue Fever

In January 2011, AFP reported: “Malaysia has released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark trial slammed by environmentalists who say the experiment is unsafe. In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, about 6,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released at an uninhabited site in the central state of Pahang, the government-run Institute of Medical Research (IMR) said. [Source: AFP, January 26, 2011]

The IMR, which was tasked with carrying out the trial, said the experiment was conducted on December 21 to "study the dispersal and longevity of these mosquitoes in the field". "The experiment was successfully concluded on January 5, 2011," the institute said in a statement dated Tuesday, adding that no further releases are planned until the trial results are analysed. The insects in the experiment have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.

Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue, a deadly disease which killed at least 134 people last year in Malaysia alone. The trial has sparked widespread concern among environmental groups and non-government organisations (NGOs), and had been postponed due to their protests as well as unfavourable weather conditions. "I am surprised that they did this without prior announcement given the high level of concerns raised not just from the NGOs but also scientists and the local residents," said researcher Lim Li Ching from Third World Network.

The network is part of 29 public health and environmental groups which have repeatedly demanded the government cancel the trial, saying it was risky and could lead to unintended consequences. "We don't agree with this trial that has been conducted in such an untransparent way. There are many questions and not enough research has been done on the full consequences of this experiment," she told AFP.

Critics have also said that too little is known about the Aedes mosquito, and how the genetically modified insects would interact with their cousins in the wild. Authorities have dismissed the fears and said the trial would be harmless as the GM mosquitoes can live for only a few days. Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes, which can lead to death if left untreated.

Hendra Virus

In 1998 and 1999, more than 111 people were killed and 229 became seriously ill in Malaysia from a mysterious disease transferred to humans from pigs. Originally thought to have been the brain-wasting disease, Japanese encephalitis, the disease turned out to be a strain of the Hendra virus, a disease usually associated with pigs that mutated into a disease lethal to humans.

One farmer told the Washington Post, "The first pigs to die were always the males. When the pigs were dead, they had phlegm coming out of the nose...That phlegm was what affected the people. They took the pigs and buried them. When they came back they had headaches. By the third day, they were shivering. The forth day, they were in a coma. The fifth day, they were dead."

The disease was centered around Bukit Pelandok, which is only 60 mile south of Kuala Lumpur and 10 miles for the new airport. Scientists who visited this areas were the iutbreak occurred wore rubber suits with battery-powered respirators.

Around one million pigs in three states—Megri Sembilan, Perak and Selangor----were shot, clubbed and suffocated with bags an carbon monoxide. Residents of the towns where the disease broke out fled and the stench of dead pigs hung in the air. Soldiers, wearing surgical masks and white jump suits, descended on farms in Bukit Pelandok and massacred hundred of pigs of with rifles, hammers and metal rods.

The Hendra virus was first identified in Australia in 1994, where it killed three people and some race horses. Doctors first thought the victims died of Japanese encephalitis because the symptoms were similar but became suspicious when people who had been vaccinated with Japanese encephalitis came down with disease and some pigs got it (pigs don’t get Japanese encephalitis).

Nipah Virus

An outbreak of Nipah virus in 1999 killed more than 100 people and caused the slaughter of roughly 1 million pigs. The disease was first detected at pig farms in Malaysia and slaughter houses in Singapore. Roughly 4 out of 10 people who came down with the disease died. Victims had flulike symptoms, a high fever, aches. Those that died went into a coma and died. There is no known cure or vaccine for the disease.

The Nipah virus has been linked with fruit bats and flying foxes. In 2000, scientists in Malaysia isolated strains of the deadly virus in the urine of flying foxes. The disease crossed over from bats to pigs (bats sometimes roost near pigsties) and then pigs to humans. Most likely a pig contacted the disease by eating an infected bat or some its or urine or feces or possibly eating fruit that infected bats had also ate. How it was passed from pigs to humans is not known, possibly from saliva coughed up a pig. It is similar to the Hendra virus, a disease that killed 14 horses and their trainer in Australia.

David Quammen wrote in National Geographic, “In September 1998, a pork seller in peninsular Malaysia checked into a hospital with some sort of brain inflammation and died. Around the same time, a number of pig-farm workers came down with similar symptoms, bad fever leading to coma; several of them also died. Pigs in the area meanwhile suffered an illness of their own (or what seemed their own), coughing and wheezing, keeling over dead. The pig disease was taken to be classical swine fever. The human deaths were attributed to Japanese encephalitis. But within a few months, scientists showed that both the pigs and the people had been infected with the same virus, a new one, first isolated from a patient whose home village was called Sungai Nipah. The virus was highly contagious from pig to pig, but not from person to person. It spread elsewhere in Malaysia, and even to Singapore, with shipments of live pigs, infecting people who came in contact with the sick animals or their meat. Within seven months, the outbreak had caused 265 human cases, 105 human deaths, and led to the culling of 1.1 million pigs. [Source: David Quammen, National Geographic, October 2007]

“The molecular profile of this new virus suggested a close kinship with Hendra. That provided a clue. Not long afterward, researchers found Nipah living sedately in a reservoir host: Pteropus hypomelanus, another species of fruit bat. They also noted that fruit bats, deprived of habitat elsewhere, had been congregating in orchards near the pig farms.” [Ibid]

According to News Medical: Nipah virus and Hendra virus emerged in the 1990s causing serious disease outbreaks in humans and livestock in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India. Recent Nipah outbreaks have resulted in acute respiratory distress syndrome and encephalitis, person-to-person transmission, and greater than 75 percent case fatality rates among humans. The viruses are found naturally in several species of Pteropid fruit bats (flying foxes). The NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified Nipah and Hendra as biothreat agents, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has characterized them as agriculture threat agents. In fact, the infectious agent of last year's cinematic release "Contagion" was modeled after Nipah virus. [Source: News Medical, August 10, 2012]

Nipah Virus Vaccine Developed

In August 2012, News Medical reported: “A major breakthrough in the development of a highly effective vaccine against the deadly Nipah virus has been reported by a team of federal and university scientists. The results of their study, "A Hendra virus G glycoprotein subunit vaccine protects African green monkeys from Nipah virus challenge," appeared in Science Translational Medicine online. [Source: News Medical, August 10, 2012]

The research team members are a collaborative group of investigators from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), Bethesda, Maryland; the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and Galveston National Laboratory (GNL); the National Institutes of Health (NIH's) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML); and the Boston University School of Medicine and National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories Institute (NEIDL).

In experiments carried out in African green monkeys at the RML in Hamilton, Mont., where there is a high-level safety and security facility for working with live Nipah virus, the team of researchers, under the direction of Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the RML, Laboratory of Virology, demonstrated that immunizing monkeys with a vaccine based on the Hendra virus attachment G glycoprotein afforded complete protection against Nipah virus infection with no evidence of disease. "These findings are really quite promising and appear to offer a real potential treatment for Hendra virus infection in people," said Christopher C. Broder, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology at USU and study corresponding author.

The vaccine is a soluble portion of the G glycoprotein of Hendra virus, known as Hendra-sG, which mediates viral infection and is produced in the laboratory using molecular techniques. Lead author, Katharine Bossart, Ph.D., a USU alumna and assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Boston University School of Medicine, developed the Hendra-sG vaccine while a student in Dr. Broder's laboratory at USU. "Since the vaccine is only a recombinant piece of the virus, it can be produced by itself and purified, and is a type of vaccine known as a subunit, thus making it extremely safe to use," Dr. Bossart said.

According to study co-author Thomas W. Geisbert, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UTMB and GNL, "This work now provides key evidence that a simple and safe recombinant vaccine against Nipah virus is possible. Demonstrating this in a nonhuman primate model is a major step forward in developing it for future therapeutic use in people."

"There are currently no approved vaccines for prevention of infection and disease caused by Nipah and Hendra for use people or livestock," Dr. Broder said. "This Hendra-sG vaccine has now been shown to be fully effective against infection by both Nipah and Hendra virus in at least three animal species, demonstrating its potential as a safe and effective vaccine as a possible livestock vaccine and now also as possible vaccine for use in people."

Malacca Virus: a New Bat-derived Virus Discovered in Malaysia

In 2006, a new virus, likely carried by bats, has infected a family in the Malaysian state of Malacca, according to a report in the New Straits Times. A soldier, his wife and two children fell ill a week after a bat flew into his house. Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told the newspaper that the family developed high fever accompanied by headache, cough, sore throat and other flu-like symptoms. They eventually recovered from the illness after receiving medical treatment. Scientists from Australia's CSIRO research organization and Malaysia's National Public Health Laboratory determined that the previously unknown virus is a reoviridae, a family of viruses first detected in humans during the 1950s. “This type of groundbreaking discovery ... is going to make future diagnoses of unknown viruses more accurate, as we can now add it to the list of new and emerging viruses,” said Dr. Linfa Wang, who led the CSIRO team that helped identify the virus. Malaysian health officials initially called the new pathogen "Malacca virus" after the name of the state in which it was discovered. [Source: Earthweek, July 6, 2007]

CSIRO reported: “Scientists at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) and collaborators from the National Public Health Laboratory in Malaysia identified bats as the likely host of a new virus that can cause a serious but apparently non-fatal respiratory tract illness in humans. Respiratory infections constitute the most widespread human infectious diseases and a substantial proportion of them are caused by unknown disease agents. [Source: CSIRO, October 15, 2007]

The new virus was named Malacca after the location in Malaysia where it was isolated in early 2006. Since the first discovery of human infection with this type of virus, there have been similar events involving closely related viruses in Malaysia , Bali and Hong Kong. The Malacca virus was isolated from a 39-year-old male patient who showed signs of fever and acute respiratory illness. Retrospective research revealed that some members of the patient’s family developed similar symptoms approximately one week later and showed serological evidence of infection with the same virus. The delay in onset of symptoms suggests human-to-human transmission of the virus.

This is the only recorded case of the Malacca virus infecting humans. Although the symptoms were severe and persisted for four days, there is no evidence to suggest Malacca virus is fatal. Bats are reservoir hosts of many viruses that can infect and cause illness in people, but the bats rarely display clinical signs of infection. Malacca virus is a type of reovirus (Respiratory Enteric Orphan viruses) that was first isolated in humans in the early 1950s and so named because they were not associated with any known disease. Since the Malacca virus was characterised, researchers have identified related viruses in bats, including the Xi River virus discovered by Chinese researchers. A new species name, Pteropine orthoreovirus, has been created for this group of closely related viruses, which have wide distribution in bats around the world.

The scientists at AAHL used scientific techniques including virology, serology, electron microscopy and molecular biology to establish that the virus was a reovirus and to what species group it belonged. Bats were examined as the host of the virus, not only because previous unknown viruses have originated in bats, but also because epidemiological tracing revealed that the family was exposed to a bat in the house one week before the patient became ill.

Genetic sequencing indicated that Malacca virus is closely related to a small group of bat-borne reoviruses, including Nelson Bay virus, isolated in 1968 from a fruit bat in New South Wales, Australia, and Pulau virus, isolated in 1999 from fruit bats on Tioman Island, Malaysia. Although bats are known reservoir hosts of an increasing number of zoonotic viruses (animal viruses capable of also infecting people), they rarely display clinical signs of infection. AAHL scientists subsequently worked closely with the group in the National Public Health Laboratory and other Malaysian scientists to identify the distribution of the Malacca virus and to further investigate related viruses in the bat reovirus group.

Malacca CM objects to new virus being called 'Malacca Virus'

State officials in Malacca objected to name Malacca virus, saying that name was "an insult" and would harm the tourism industry in Malacca, which is a popular destination for foreign visitors. "We will rename the virus if we can, as we do not want to tarnish the good name of the state," Health Minister Chua Soi Lek later told reporters.

Marsha Tan of Associated Press wrote: “Mohd Ali said the state government would send an official letter of objection to the Health Ministry on this matter immediately. "If it is already the official name for the virus, then we want the ministry to change that name and if it is already used overseas, we will also send a letter of objection to the usage of that name," said Mohd Ali added. Mohd Ali urged the ministry to retract the use of the name immediately, adding it was "not a good name" and that the virus should just be named after the doctor or scientist who discovered it. "Malacca is a good state, beautiful and peaceful, not the birthplace of diseases," said Mohd Ali after launching the Tok Moyang Lajis Badariah descendents memorial at Serkam here. [Source: Marsha Tan, AP, June 30, 2007]

SARS and Malaria

Malaysia managed to largely to avoid the SARS outbreak. It had five cases of SARS and two deaths connected to the disease. The government moved aggressively to prevent the spread of the disease. It imposed visa restrictions, particularly on people arriving from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Toronto, where the disease had appeared, and carefully screened people entering the country.

Malaria was eradicated in the 1950s and 60s but came back in the 1970s.A DDT campaign in Malaysia was successful in eliminating mosquitoes and reducing malaria as a threat. It also brought about an increase in bed bugs. It turns out that a certain kind of ant eats bed bugs. The DDT killed the ants but not the bed bugs. DDT is still used, in part because it is effective in controlling mosquitos that carry the malaria parasite.

AIDS

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.5 percent (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 68. HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 100,000 (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 41. HIV/AIDS - deaths: 5,800 (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 36. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was among common communicable diseases, but figures vary as to its prevalence. According to United Nations data, approximately 51,000 persons aged 15 to 49 had HIV in 2003, and the HIV prevalence rate was 0.4 percent, lower than the 0.6 percent rate for South and Southeast Asia overall.

The International AIDS-HIV charity Art reports: HIV and AIDS statistics from Malaysia show that an estimated 0.5 percent of the population are living with HIV. Although most people infected with HIV in the country are male, there has been a steep increase in the number of new cases among women. During the late 1990s women made up around 5 percent of new infections, compared to around 20 percent in 2006. Malaysia's epidemic is largely driven by injecting drug use, but heterosexual transmission is accounting for an increasing number of new infections. Recent trends have demonstrated a promising decrease in annual HIV infections, from 7,000 in 2002 to 5,830 in 2006. In 2006 the government launched a five-year strategic plan to tackle HIV, which includes drug substitution therapy and needle exchange programmes for drug users. In 2009, 5,800 people died from AIDS in Malaysia. [Source: Avert, International AIDS-HIV charity website]

As of 1997, about 20,000 people had AIDS or were infected with HIV. At that point the disease was doubling every 18 months but infection rates were still much lower than those in Thailand or Cambodia. HIV was spread primarily bu drug users and ex workers. The HIV rate among prostitutes leapt from 0.3 percent in 1992 to 10 percent in 1995.

Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was a leader in Malaysia’s effort to fight AIDS. Prevention efforts have been way behind those in Thailand. They consisting many of advertising campaigns against promiscuous sex and drug use. The use of condoms and giving out needles to drug addicts are sensitive issues in Malaysia.

December 2008, AFP reported: “Malaysia’s HIV infection rate has dropped by nearly half over the past five years but the number of women infected is rising sharply, deputy premier Najib Razak reportedly said. Mr Najib said there were 3,452 new HIV cases in 2008, compared to 6,756 in 2003, thanks to a national program to stem infections. 'Malaysia is categorised as a country with a concentrated epidemic...meaning in certain, high risk groups,' he said according to the state Bernama news agency. However, Mr Najib expressed concern over the increase in HIV infections among women through normal sexual intercourse, saying their numbers rose from 5.02 percent in 1997 to 16.3 percent last year. [Source: AFP, December 18, 2008]

Islamists Complain About Malaysia Plan to Battle AIDS

In May 2005, Evelyn Rusli wrote in the New York Times, “Alarmed by the rising number of AIDS cases, the Malaysian government has announced a plan to distribute condoms, needles and methadone treatment for drug users, igniting opposition from the conservative Islamic community here. Muslim clerics have strongly criticized the plan, worth $40 million, saying that it would encourage drug abuse and extramarital sex and that it violated Islamic law. "When you give free condoms and free needles, you give drug abusers the motivation to engage in risky behavior," said Mahfoz Omar, a leader of the Islamic Party of Malaysia, an opposition political party. "Why should we give the people's money to those that do not have the will for life?" [Source: Evelyn Rusli, New York Times, July 4, 2005 ////]

“Local AIDS groups and the conservative Malaysian government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, an Islamic scholar, disagree. While the government had rejected plans to distribute condoms or needles, it now argued that dramatic steps were justified because the AIDS problem had reached a critical level, health officials said. "When the condition reaches an epidemic level, unconventional methods are necessary," the health minister, Chua Soi Lek, said in an interview Sunday. The government argues that the new policies do not violate Islamic law because in cases of emergency, people can break rules to survive. ////

“About 15,000 children have already been made orphans by AIDS in Malaysia, and the country is on the brink of an AIDS epidemic, the World Health Organization has said. The Health Ministry has identified 64,000 people with HIV or AIDS, but government officials and the United Nations fear that the number of HIV cases is closer to 300,000. ////

“In Malaysia, addressing the problem of drug abuse is an important step in the fight against AIDS because 75 percent of those with HIV or AIDS are drug users, according to the Malaysian AIDS Council, a nongovernmental AIDS group. In the past, the government has shunned needle-exchange programs in favor of abstinence programs. But 70 percent to 90 percent of drug users who followed the government's abstinence program returned to drug abuse, according to a study in 2004 by the Burnet's Institute Center for Harm Reduction, a research group based in Australia. "It was a wake-up call for the government," a Malaysian Aids Council official, Sangreta Kaur, said. ////

“The Malaysian government plans to start the first phase of its new AIDS program in October by offering methadone drug therapy, a treatment that weans users off their addictions by using methadone as a substitute, said the country's health minister, Chua. In January, the government plans to provide condoms and start needle-exchange programs at four or five nongovernmental sites. But as the government pushes ahead with its AIDS plan, a sensitive debate over whether the policies violate Islamic law looms in a country where more than 60 percent of the population is Muslim. ////

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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