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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

How is Malaria Different from Dengue?

Malaria and dengue are two of the most serious public health conditions in India. These two diseases are common in tropical and subtropical regions.

They cause high mortality and morbidity for several patients around the world.

The monsoon season witnesses the most patients for the two diseases. Everyone knows that both are mosquito-borne diseases. But are the two the same?

They have multiple symptoms in common, but they aren’t the same. You have to be careful as the wrong diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment and cause more harm than the disease itself.

So, let’s look at the differences between malaria and dengue:


The Aedes aegypti mosquito or tiger mosquito (due to presence of characteristic stripes) is the primary cause for dengue. It is generally transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

This species of mosquito are day biters and breed in freshwater like household pots, open overhead tanks, broken coconut shells and discarded containers.

malaria anopheles mosquito

Caption:                      A female anopheles mosquito. Credits:                                          Pixabay

On the other hand, the female anopheles mosquito causes malaria. Unlike dengue which is spread by other mosquitoes, malaria is transmitted exclusively through the bite of a female anopheles’ mosquito.

They usually attack during the night. Environmental factors like humidity, rainy season, and temperature cause mosquito breeding.


The types of dengue virus (DENV) are DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, and DENV 4. All of them are transmitted to humans through the bite of Aedes mosquitos.

All four dengue virus serotypes surface from sylvatic strains in the forests of South-East Asia.

Types of malaria include Plasmodium Malaria, Plasmodium Vivax, Plasmodium Falciparum, Plasmodium Ovale, and Plasmodium Knowlesi.

Mode of Transmission

Dengue is transmitted only through the Aedes mosquito.

Malaria is transmitted through the mosquito vector, needle stick, or transfusion.



The most common symptoms of dengue are: ⦁ Sudden high fever (up to 41 degrees Celsius) ⦁ Pain behind the eyes ⦁ Severe headaches ⦁ Severe muscle, abdominal and joint pain ⦁ Extreme tiredness and fatigue ⦁ Vomiting and nausea ⦁ Easy bruising and skin rashes ⦁ A sudden drop in platelet count ⦁ Mild to active bleeding ⦁ Swollen lymph nodes due to fever


The most common symptoms of malaria are: ⦁ High fever lasting for 2 to 4 days ⦁ Severe headaches ⦁ Muscle pain ⦁ Inability to do physical tasks ⦁ Severe chills ⦁ Heavy sweating ⦁ Tiredness and fatigue ⦁ Constant nausea ⦁ Persistent dry cough ⦁ Loose motions and runny stools

Peculiar symptoms

Rashes are generally observed in dengue only. Malaria patients do not exhibit rashes.

If a person experiences heavy sweating or severe chills, he or she may be diagnosed with malaria.

Incubation period

Dengue symptoms start showing as soon as 4 to 5 days after a mosquito bite.

Malaria takes around 10 to 15 days to incubate and infect the person.

Duration of the fever

Dengue fever appears for 2 to 3 days. It then becomes dormant and appears again, worse than before.

On the other hand, fever due to malaria lasts for a shorter duration and comes in stages of extreme cold, sweating and extreme cold again.

RBCs and Platelets

malaria peripheral blood

Credits:                          Flickr Caption:        Malaria in peripheral blood

A dengue infected person will show a large drop in the blood platelet count.

Whereas, malaria patients show infected red blood cells because that’s where the fever hits the most.


Dengue requires immune chemical investigations. It can also be diagnosed through antigen and antibody tests.

2019-20 dengue epidemic

Caption:           The 2019-2020 dengue fever epidemic. Credits:                        Commons wikimedia

Malaria is diagnosed through microscopic visuals. It can also be diagnosed by the presence of the parasite in the peripheral blood smear.


Antimalarial drugs are used for the treatment of malaria.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for the treatment of dengue. It is treated using supportive measures like fluid resuscitation and blood transfusion.

The most common antimalarial drugs include:

⦁ Chloroquine ⦁ Hydroxy-chloroquine ⦁ Quinine-sulfate ⦁ Mefloquine ⦁ Amalgam of proguanil and atovaquone

Dengue Shock Syndrome

A few dengue cases (1 or 2%) can lead to Dengue shock syndrome. It is a syndrome marked by decreased blood platelet count, resulting in unusual bleeding, further leading to shock.

If it is not treated, it may eventually cause death.

So, everything differs right from the source and detection to the treatment. Thus, any patient with common symptoms of both must be taken to a hospital for the best treatment.

Most people recover from dengue and malaria with the administration of complete rest and prescribed drugs.

Factors like living in unhygienic neighbourhoods, tropical weather, and previous exposure to the virus must be kept in check at all times, especially during the monsoon season.

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