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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Leptospirosis and Melioidosis in Malaysia

26 Jan 2015

The northeastern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang in peninsular Malaysia have been badly affected by flooding. As a result, the Ministry of Health has identified an increase in leptospirosis and melioidosis cases since 01 January 2015.

A total of 753 suspected cases of leptospirosis have been reported, of those, 126 have been laboratory confirmed. Twenty confirmed cases of melioidosis have been recorded.

The Ministry of Health has also detected an increase in other diseases: gastroenteritis, diarrhoeal disease and upper respiratory tract infection in the flood affected areas. Public health measures are being carried out to raise awareness and educated the public on preventive measures.

Advice for Travellers

Leptospirosis is caused by contact with fresh water, wet soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated by urine of animals that are infected. The infection is transmitted through breaks in the skin, the eyes, or the mucous membranes. Rats, dogs, cattle, and pigs are the usual carriers of this disease. Leptospirosis occurs worldwide and frequently follows flooding after heavy rains.

Travellers should be aware of the risk and avoid exposure to contaminated water where possible.

Travellers can acquire melioidosis by walking in muddy water, handling muddy items, or breathing air-borne particles while using high-powered hoses. Travellers should take precautions against the disease by wearing waterproof shoes, gloves, and masks when gardening or cleaning up after floods.

Those most at risk include those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heavy alcohol intake, cancer, advanced age, kidney or lung disease and those being treated for cancer and on long-term steroid therapy medication.