More than half of people asked in a survey were unable to recognise malaria symptoms, leading to warnings the disease can be confused with flu.
The Malaria Awareness Campaign has warned people going abroad and healthcare professionals to be aware of the disease, after 57% of its sample could not identify malaria symptoms.
The group's survey questioned 2,254 people about symptoms of malaria such as being too hot or cold, diarrhoea, coughing, headaches, muscle pain and having a high temperature.
It emerged in April that the UK saw almost 30% more malaria cases over the past two years.
The high-profile case of singer Cheryl Cole has helped to highlight the fact malaria can hit anybody, said campaign spokesman Dr George Kassianos. But he stressed the disease is still hard to identify.
He said: "Failure to identify malaria quickly can be potentially fatal, which is why I am urging patients to help their healthcare professional with the diagnosis by always volunteering information of travel abroad.
"I would also like to remind fellow healthcare professionals to confirm whether their patient has travelled to a malaria risk area and to take this into consideration when making their diagnosis."