Malaysia Health Care and Vaccinations
Health insurance is recommended. Government and private hospitals are found in all the main cities and can deal with major medical needs, but all charge for treatments. Standards are generally higher at private hospitals – the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (www.hospitals-malaysia.org) has a list of member hospitals. In an emergency, dial 999.
Food is one of the highlights of any trip to Malaysia, but a little caution is required as standards of hygiene can vary. Restaurants are usually fine, and you should also be safe at street stalls and night markets where the food is prepared freshly on the premises. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish and avoid places where food has been left lying around in the open air. Avoid ice cream and other unpasteurised dairy products as they may have been defrosted and refrozen.
Tap water in larger cities is usually safe, but most people prefer to drink bottled water. Elsewhere, all water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated – stick to water that has been boiled or sterilised. Be wary of ice as it may have been prepared using contaminated water. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled – milk used in tea has normally been boiled or treated.
Malaria and Hepatitis A and C are present in Malaysia and Hepatitis B is also widespread, though the risk to travellers is low. Outbreaks of dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and meningococcal meningitis occur in both urban and rural areas, but are rare in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and coastal resorts. Rabies is present; if bitten by monkeys or dogs, seek immediate medical attention. There have been several outbreaks of avian influenza since 2004 but no human fatalities.
The Zika virus in endemic in Malaysia. The mosquito-borne illness can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as well as through sexual contact. Travellers to Malaysia should protect themselves from mosquito bites and wear clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible, sleeping under mosquito nets and using repellents that contain DEET (diethyltoluamide), IR 3535 ((3- [N-butyl-N-acetyl], aminopropionic acid ethyl-ester) or KBR3023 (also called Icaridin or Picaridin). Pregnant women are advised to postpone non-essential travel until after pregnancy and pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika virus transmission should follow safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, at risk of getting pregnant, or planning pregnancy should seek further advice from their doctor before travelling to Malaysia.