Infectious diseases and the dirty Malaysian

Yusof-Abdul-Rahman-Anthony-Tan-Aagile-FernandezPETALING JAYA: A consumer group has sought to dispel the notion that foreigners are solely to blame for the spread of disease in Malaysia.

Yusof Abdul Rahman, vice-president of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca), said Malaysians must also blame their own lack of hygiene awareness.

“Malaysians have a habit of not taking care of public cleanliness,” he said. “This leads to the spread of diseases like wildfire.”

He gave the example of dirty restaurants and complained of the willingness of Malaysians to patronise them.

Asian Overland Services Tours and Travel director Anthony Wong agreed, saying most Malaysians “have dirty habits”.

He said some people would throw their garbage anywhere they liked after eating takeaway food.

“For instance, this morning I picked up a plastic bag that was thrown out of a car by an irresponsible driver who just rolled down his car window and chucked his trash outside,” he said.

Wong said Malaysia had a long way to go to gain a reputation as a clean country.

However, Anthony Tan, the executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia, said only some Malaysians had issues with cleanliness and hygiene.

Among them, he said, were those in the food business who were so keen on beating the competition that they forgot the basic requirement of ensuring the cleanliness of their offerings.

“This is why some people get food poisoning and diarrhoea,” he said.

He said immigrants were the main culprits in the spread of disease because they lived in unsanitary conditions and they lacked access to healthcare.

Referring to the comeback of tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases, he said immigrants “might have been infected in their country, and when they come into our country illegally, being unable to go to government hospitals, they will spread the disease here”.

Tenaganita director Aagile Fernandez recently said it would be wrong to single out immigrants for blame because the level of hygiene awareness among Malaysians was low.

In fact, she added, Malaysians were the main contributors to the high number of TB cases in the country.

A former director of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Abdul Razak Muttalif, was recently quoted as saying that infectious diseases such as TB, leptospirosis and rabies were making a comeback in Malaysia.

He said TB was responsible for most reported deaths attributed to infectious diseases in Malaysia.

Ivy Chong, Nurul Azwa and Afiqah Farieza contributed to this article.