The health risk information presented here is summarized from Shoreland Travax®, a decision-support tool used by health care providers to perform a detailed health risk analysis based on specific locations, individual travel styles, and traveler risk behaviors. Travax provides practitioners current, independently researched malaria risk and prevention recommendations in a map-based format that goes beyond the annual WHO and CDC statements included here. Not included here are current reports from Travax of disease outbreaks or environmental events that may pose elevated risks to travelers’ health and safety. The Providers section of this site offers a directory of health care providers who utilize Shoreland Travax for travel health counseling. Learn more about the detailed reports and maps available from these practitioners (includes links to samples).
Malaysia is a developing nation but is in the upper half of the world's economies. Located in the South China Sea in Southeast Asia, it consists of 2 regions: a peninsula extending south from Thailand and 2 states to the east on the northern coast of Borneo. Its climate is tropical.
See also: Library article for Yellow Fever
Although yellow fever does not occur in Malaysia, an official yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required depending on your itinerary.
- Requirement: A vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged ≥ 1 year coming from countries with risk of YF transmission. Note: This applies to airport layovers longer than 12 hours in these countries.
Depending on your itinerary, your personal risk factors, and the length of your visit, your health care provider may offer you vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, Japanese encephalitis, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, or typhoid fever. Routine immunizations, such as those that prevent tetanus/diphtheria or "childhood" diseases, should be reviewed and updated as needed.
See also: Library article for Malaria
The following is current information as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
WHO—International Travel and Health (current online update, Country List)(2017) Malaria risk exists only in limited foci in the deep hinterland of the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the central areas of Peninsular Malaysia. Urban, suburban and coastal areas are free from malaria. Human P. knowlesi infection reported. P. falciparum resistance to chloroquine reported.
- Recommended prevention in risk areas: C – Risk of P. falciparum malaria, in combination with reported chloroquine and sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine resistance. Mosquito bite prevention plus atovaquone–proguanil or doxycycline or mefloquine chemoprophylaxis (select according to reported side effects and contraindications) a
aAlternatively, for travel to rural areas with low risk of malaria infection, mosquito bite prevention can be combined with stand–by emergency treatment (SBET).
WHO Country List footnote: When available, the date of the most recent update or confirmation is indicated in parentheses in the country list. If no date is indicated, the most recent update or confirmation was provided before 2013.
CDC—Health Information for International Travel (current online edition)Areas with malaria: Present in rural areas. None in Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur, and Penang State (includes Penang Island).
- Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers: Low.
- Drug resistance4: Chloroquine.
- Malaria species: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. Knowlesi, P. malariae, and P. ovale.
- Recommended chemoprophylaxis: Rural areas: Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine.
4 Refers to P. falciparum malaria unless otherwise noted.
See also: Library article for Travelers' Diarrhea
Moderate risk exists throughout the country, with minimal risk in deluxe accommodations. Food and beverage precautions may reduce the likelihood of illness.
Travelers should carry loperamide for self-treatment of diarrhea and, if risk is moderate to high, an antibiotic to add if diarrhea is severe. Consult a knowledgeable health care provider regarding which antibiotic is appropriate for you and most effective for your destination.
Insect- and Arthropod-Borne Diseases
Other Disease and Health Risks
Additional concerns include air pollution, altitude illness, avian influenza, enteroviruses, helminths, leptospirosis, marine hazards, melioidosis, sexually transmitted infections, snakebites, tuberculosis.
The material below includes information from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as well as from additional open-source material. Standard safety precautions that apply to all international travel can be found in the Library article Safety and Security.
Consular Travel Advice
Due to kidnapping and ongoing security concerns, U.K. (FCO), Canada (GAC), and Australia (DFAT) advise reconsidering travel (or avoiding nonessential travel) to coastal areas of eastern Sabah State (from Kudat to Tawau), including outlying islands. U.S. (DOS) has no current warning.
High risk of attack by domestic and transnational terrorist groups exists throughout the country, including Kuala Lumpur. Targets may include domestic and international organizations and businesses; public places and events, including those frequented by tourists; and transportation systems.
High risk of kidnapping by terrorist groups exists in eastern areas of Sabah State, including surrounding islands in the Sulu Sea. Targets may include foreigners (especially Westerners).
Negligible risk of violent crime and high risk of petty crime exist throughout the country. Snatch-and-grab thefts are common, especially on pedestrian crossings or sidewalks near major shopping centers.
Scams involving ATMs, credit cards, private card games (where travelers are invited by "friendly" strangers and incur substantial financial loss), the use of distraction techniques to commit robbery, false befriending, and fraudulent charities have been reported.
Protests and demonstrations occur throughout the country and have the potential to turn violent without warning. Bystanders are at risk of harm from violence or from the response by authorities. Disruption to transportation, free movement, or the ability to carry out daily activities may occur.
A dangerous security environment, military presence, and restricted areas may exist in eastern areas of Sabah State, Borneo Island (not including resort towns and areas and the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve).
Piracy (involving commercial and private, leisure vessels) occurs in coastal and international waters, especially in the Strait of Malacca and the Sulu and Celebes seas.
Passenger boats may be unsafe, including ferries, small crafts, and speedboats. Decline water transportation in vessels that appear overloaded or lack personal flotation devices or life jackets.
Basic safety standards for recreational water activities (including scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, rafting, kayaking, and tubing) may not be in place. Rent water sports equipment from reputable operators. Scuba dive only with personnel certified by PADI or NAUI and use equipment only from PADI- or NAUI-certified dive operators.
Very high risk of traffic-related injury or death exists. The road-traffic death rate is greater than 24 per 100,000 population, the highest risk category. Carefully assess the safety of transportation options before any road travel. Seek local advice before traveling on roads outside urban areas after dark. Driving at night is not advised.
Traffic flows on the left-hand side of the road. Travelers (including drivers and pedestrians) accustomed to traffic moving on the opposite side should be vigilant when navigating traffic.
Road-traffic collisions can lead to violent confrontations.
Private, long-distance buses do not meet international safety standards (due to hazardous driving).
Many taxis are unsafe. Use taxis from official ranks or dispatched via smart phone app or radio from a reputable company and ascertain the license or identification number of the dispatched vehicle.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the civil aviation authority of this country oversees its air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards.
The monsoon season is from October through February, coinciding with the typhoon season. Floods, mudslides, and landslides may occur.
Seismic activity occurs, including in Sabah State.
Selected Embassies or Consulates in Malaysia
- United States: [+60] 3-2168-5000; my.usembassy.gov
- Canada: [+60] 3-2718-3333; malaysia.gc.ca
- United Kingdom: [+60] 3-2170-2200; www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-high-commission-kuala-lumpur
- Australia: [+60] 3-2146-5555; www.malaysia.embassy.gov.au
Malaysia's Embassies or Consulates in Selected Countries
- In the U.S.: www.kln.gov.my/web/usa_washington/home
- In Canada: www.kln.gov.my/web/can_ottawa/home
- In the U.K.: www.kln.gov.my/web/gbr_london/home
- In Australia: www.kln.gov.my/web/aus_canberra/home
HIV and hepatitis testing may be required to obtain a work or residence visa. Travelers, including short-term travelers, may be detained or deported after arrival if found to be positive for HIV or hepatitis.