Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia is concerned that foreign workers in the country are fuelling the spread of tuberculosis amongst its citizens, according to a news report.
Foreign workers, both legal and illegal, account for 2.6 mn, or almost 25% of Malaysia’s workforce, making it one of the largest importers of foreign labour in Asia.
Chief executive of the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency Mohamed Ali Abu Bakar said many of the 1.3 mn foreign workers who underwent health screenings last year were found to have tuberculosis (TB), the Star daily reported.
“We’ve received various reports of foreign maids, for example, who passed TB on to the children of their employers,” Mohamed Ali was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
“This alone gives us reason to regularly monitor and examine foreign workers, as there is also the risk of them carrying other diseases such as Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV,” he said.
Mohamed Ali said the agency was working with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to find ways to curb the spread of TB as more workers arrived every year from Myanmar, China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia.
Foreign workers are currently required to undergo three health screenings while working here. However the MMA’s private practitioners’ chairman, N.K.S. Tharmaseelan, said three screenings over three years were insufficient to detect diseases.
“Many diseases lay dormant in the carrier until triggered by some external factor. This is especially true for TB, which is why foreign workers must regularly have checks,” Tharmaseelan said.
In 2005, 1,766 TB cases or 11% of the total cases detected in Malaysia, were among foreign nationals, state Bernama news agency reported, citing data from the Health Ministry.