Penang facing urban malaria crisis following influx of foreign workers, says state health DG

KEPALA BATAS: Penang is experiencing an urban malaria crisis following the influx of foreign nationals into the state’s various economic sectors with the health status of these workers being unknown.

State Health director, Datuk Dr Ma'arof Sudin said employers in the private sector having foreign workers should thus provide information on their workers from endemic malaria countries to the nearest District Health Office for record purposes.

"In fact, all foreign workers should undergo medical examination including screening for malaria based on the policy set by the government for the foreign workers in Malaysia.

"Besides that, residents who live in or have a travel history to areas at risk of malaria or to malaria endemic countries should seek immediate treatment at the nearest clinic or hospital if they have symptoms like fever, chills, sweating and body weakness.

"Among the malaria endemic countries are Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Congo," he said in his speech at the state-level World Malaria Day commemoration at the Setia Experience Centre, Bandar Setia Fontaines, here, on Thursday (Aug 11).

Dr Ma'arof said the State Health Department was always taking precautionary measures, active detection of cases, surveillance examination activities and control, conducting health education among members of the community and non-governmental organisations and those in the private sector to prevent and control malaria infection, as best as possible, from the endemic countries.

He said in addition to the control and prevention activities, were other initiatives taken that were unique to Penang, namely, the Malaria Control Drain Modification Innovation or Environmental Management Method to prevent breeding of the Anopheles mosquito that was available in Taman Botani and could be a referral source locally and internationally.

"In Malaysia, up to the 30th Epidemiology Week, 2022, the reported number of cumulative malaria cases was at 1,611, with 90.3% of zoonotic malaria infections caused by the Plasmodium knowlesi parasite spread to humans through the host animals such as macaques.

"The other 9.7% were human malaria infection cases with 96% of these being import cases that were detected in Malaysia," he added. - Bernama

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