How is the diagnosis of malaria confirmed?

  1. Seeing the malaria parasites within red cells in a stained thick blood smear is the traditional ways of confirming the diagnosis. Repeated smears may be needed before malaria is excluded as the smear may be negative early in the infection.
  2. A blood test to detect malaria proteins (rapid antigen test) is also useful in making a rapid diagnosis. It is very reliable and available at primary care facilities in malarial areas of South Africa.
  3. It is very important to confirm the diagnosis of malaria as soon as possible.

Most deaths due to malaria are caused by delayed diagnosis or late treatment.

Remember that many other serious conditions may present with the same symptoms and signs as malaria, e.g. bacterial meningitis. Children may also have malaria plus another infection.

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