<p>Abstract</p> <p>Background</p> <p>Early recognition of symptoms and signs perceived as malaria are important for effective case management, as few laboratories are available at peripheral health facilities. The validity and reliability of clinical signs and symptoms used by health workers to diagnose malaria were assessed in an area of low transmission in south-western Uganda.</p> <p>Methods</p> <p>The study had two components: 1) passive case detection where all patients attending the out patient clininc with a febrile illness were included and 2) a longitudinal active malaria case detection survey was conducted in selected villages. A malaria case was defined as any slide-confirmed parasitaemia in a person with an axillary temperature ≥ 37.5°C or a history of fever within the last 24 hrs and no signs suggestive of other diseases.</p> <p>Results</p> <p>Cases of malaria were significantly more likely to report joint pains, headache, vomiting and abdominal pains. However, due to the low prevalence of malaria, the predictive values of these individual signs alone, or in combination, were poor. Only 24.8% of 1627 patients had malaria according to case definition and > 75% of patients were unnecessarily treated for malaria and few slide negative cases received alternative treatment.</p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>In low-transmission areas, more attention needs to be paid to differential diagnosis of febrile illnesses In view of suggested changes in anti-malarial drug policy, introducing costly artemisinin combination therapy accurate, rapid diagnostic tools are necessary to target treatment to people in need.</p
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