How is malaria diagnosed?

Doctors may suspect malaria in patients who have traveled to an area where malaria is common and who have fever or flu-like symptoms. They can reach a more definite diagnosis with a small sample of the patient's blood (taken by a finger prick) and expert microscopic examination of the sample. Doctors can then see if the patient has malaria, and which type(s).

There are some “rapid” testing methods available when expert microscopic review of a blood smear is not possible, but these are often costly. They can help guide treatment while waiting for confirmation of the diagnosis by microscopy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2017.


  • World Health Organization. International Travel and Health Accessed 5/17/2017.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Malaria Accessed 5/17/2017.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Malaria Accessed 5/17/2017.

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