When making a malaria diagnosis, the doctor will usually ask about the patient’s medical history, recent travel history, symptoms, and current medications. The doctor will also often perform a physical exam. The test that is typically used to diagnose malaria is called a blood smear. Some medical conditions the healthcare provider will consider before diagnosing malaria include the flu, common cold, meningitis, hepatitis, and yellow fever.
Malaria Diagnosis: An Overview In order to make a malaria diagnosis, the healthcare provider may ask a number of questions concerning:
* Current symptoms
* Medical conditions
* Family medical history
* Current medications
* Recent travel history.
The healthcare provider will also likely perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms of malaria. He or she may also order certain tests to help in diagnosing malaria or another condition.
Tests Used to Make a Malaria Diagnosis The doctor may suspect malaria based on the patient’s symptoms, and the physical findings at examination; however, to make a definitive diagnosis of malaria, laboratory tests must demonstrate the malaria parasites, or their components.
The best test available to diagnose malaria is called a blood smear. In this test, malaria parasites can be identified by examining a drop of the patient’s blood under the microscope, spread out as a “blood smear” on a microscope slide. Prior to examination, the specimen (blood) is stained to give to the parasites a distinctive appearance.
There are other blood tests available that may be used along with a blood smear to confirm a malaria diagnosis.
Diagnosing Malaria or Another Condition A malaria diagnosis can be difficult to make, especially in areas where malaria is not very common. A number of other conditions share similar symptoms with malaria. Some of these conditions the healthcare provider will consider before diagnosing malaria include:
* The flu (influenza)
* Common cold
* Typhoid fever
* Dengue fever
* Acute schistosomiasis (disease caused by worms)
* Bacteremia/septicemia (infection in blood)
* Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
* Yellow fever (disease typically transmitted by mosquitoes).