Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 209–217 | Cite as

Environmental change, development and vectorborne disease: Malaysia’s experience with filariasis, scrub typhus and dengue

  • B. H. Kwa
Original Paper


During Malaysia’s rapid economic development into becoming a middle income country in the past several decades, environmental changes resulted in altered land use patterns because of agricultural practices such as large scale rice, rubber and oil palm cultivation. The impact of environmental changes brought about by rice and rubber cultivation affected the breeding habitats of mosquito vectors which in turn affected the prevalence of two strains of lymphatic filariasis in different ways. With scrub typhus, the development of oil palm plantations affected the ecology of mite and rodent populations which resulted in very high incidence of the disease in affected populations. Malaysia’s relentless urbanization has resulted in increased incidence of dengue, as peridomestic mosquito vectors increasingly colonize urban habitats. This article discusses how ecological factors determine the way lymphatic filariasis, scrub typhus and dengue were spread in Malaysia. The nation’s experience with environmental changes due to rapid development provides lessons for other developing countries in control programs and public health policy.


dengue development ecological changes environment lymphatic filariasis malaria Malaysia vectorborne disease 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The author wishes to thank the Fulbright Foundation, the Malaysian–American Council for Educational Exchange, the Rockefeller Foundation and the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia for their support.


  1. Audy, J.R., & Harrison, J.L. (1951). A review on investigations on mite typhus in Burma and Malaya, 1945–1950. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 44, 371–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown, G.W., Robinson, D.M., Huxsoll, D.L., Ng, T.S., Lim, K.J., & Sannasey, G. (1976). Scrub typhus: a common cause of illness in indigenous populations. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 70, 444–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chang, M.S., Ho, B.C., & Chan, K.L. (1991). Efficacy of diethylcarbamazine and pirimiphos-methyl residual spraying in controlling brugian filariasis. Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 42, 95–102.Google Scholar
  4. Cheong, W.H. (1967). Preferred Aedes aegypti larval habitats in urban areas. Bulletin of World Health Organization, 36, 586–589.Google Scholar
  5. Cheong, W.H. (1983). Vectors of filariasis. Bulletin of Institute of Medical Research. Kuala Lumpur, 19, 37–44.Google Scholar
  6. Desowitz, R.S. (1981). New Guinea Tapeworms & Jewish Grandmothers. New York: Avon.Google Scholar
  7. Heyneman, D. (1971). Mis-aid to the third world: disease repercussions caused by ecological ignorance. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 62, 303–313.Google Scholar
  8. Heyneman, D. (1984). Presidential address – Development and disease: a dual dilemma”. Journal of Parasitology, 70, 3–17.Google Scholar
  9. Hussin, N., Jaafar, J., Naing, N.N., Mat, H.A., Muhamad, A.H., & Mamat, M.N. (2005). A review of dengue fever incidence in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia during the years 1998–2003. South East Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 36, 1179–1186.Google Scholar
  10. Lee, H.L. (1991). Analysis of limiting factors affecting breeding of Aedes vectors in urban towns of Peninsular Malaysia – nationwide survey. Tropical Biomedicine, 8, 185–189.Google Scholar
  11. Lee, H.L. (1996). Review of research on dengue vectors”, Proceedings of National Dengue Conference, Institute of Medical Research Kuala Lumpur, pp. 98–111.Google Scholar
  12. Lim, Y.L., Foong, K., Abu Hassan, A., & Kwa, B.H. (2000) Promoting behavioral change in dengue control: an action-oriented approach in construction sites in Penang, Malaysia, Research Report, Institute of Health Promotion, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, pp. 1–67.Google Scholar
  13. Mak, J.W. (1983a). Filariasis: diagnosis and treatment. Bulletin of Institute of Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur, 19, 73–81.Google Scholar
  14. Mak, J.W. (1983b). Epidemiology and control of filariasis. Bulletin of Institute of Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur, 19, 83–93.Google Scholar
  15. Mak, J.W., Cheong, W.H., Yen, P.K.F., Lim, P.K.C., & Chan, W.C. (1982). Studies on the epidemiology of subperiodic Brugia malayi in Malaysia: problems in its control. Acta Tropica, 39, 237–245.Google Scholar
  16. Marzhuki, M.I., Tham, A.S., & Poovaneswari, S. (1993) Current status of flilariasis in Malaysia, South East Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 24(Suppl.), 10–14.Google Scholar
  17. National Dengue Conference Proceedings, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur, 9–11th May 1996, pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  18. Oaks , S.C. Jr., Ridgway, R.L., Shirai, A., & Twartz, J.C. (1983). “Epidemiology and ecology”. Bulletin Institute of Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur, 21, 25–33.Google Scholar
  19. Sagin, D.D., Ismail, G., Nasian, L.M., Jok, J.J., & Pang, E.K. (2000). Rickettsial infection in five remote Orang Ulu villages in upper Rejang River, Sarawak, Malaysia. South East Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 31, 733–735.Google Scholar
  20. Sandosham, A.A. (1963). Annual Report. Institute of Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur (for 1962), 45–49.Google Scholar
  21. Singh, J. (1985). Control of Brugian Filariasis. Proceedings of the WHO Regional Seminar, Kuala Lumpur (July 1985), 9–12.Google Scholar
  22. Smadel, J.E., Ley, H.L. Jr. Diercks, F.H., & Traub, R. (1950). Immunity in scrub typhus: resistance to induced reinfection. Archives of Pathology, 50, 847–861.Google Scholar
  23. Surtees, G. (1970). Effects of irrigation on mosquito populations and mosquito-borne diseases in man, with particular reference to ricefield extension. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 1, 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tham, A.S. (1996). Review and evaluation of dengue control activities including legislation and enforcement, Proc. National Dengue Conference, Inst. Med. Res., Kuala Lumpur, 37–63.Google Scholar
  25. Verdrager, J. (1986). Epidemiology of emergence and spread of drug-resistant falciparum malaria in Southeast Asia, South East Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 17, 111–118.Google Scholar
  26. Waddy , B.B. (1975). Research into the health problems of manmade lakes, with special reference to Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 69 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Walsh, J.F., Molyneux, D.H., & Birley, M.H. (1993). “Deforestation: effects on vectorborne disease”. Parasitology, 106, S55–S75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. WHO, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, “Malaria, Filariasis and other Parasitic Diseases”, Regional Committee Report, 53rd Session, Kyoto, Japan; 16–20 September, 2002, WPR/RC53/8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global Health College of Public HealthUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations