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Knowing the difference: Malaria and Dengue

"Find out how you can tell dengue and malaria apart. "
By: Zam TorrazoKnowing the difference: Malaria and Dengue

Both malaria and dengue are mosquito-borne diseases that are widespread in our country due to its tropical location. Because the symptoms are so similar between the two diseases, it can be quite difficult, if not impossible, to identify without proper laboratory testing. Although these diseases have almost identical symptoms, it is important to differentiate them for proper treatment.


Malaria and dengue are both transmitted via the bite of a mosquito, but from different types. Dengue is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito that has been observed to be active in the morning. Dengue can be transmitted only if another mosquito bites the infected person and then spread it to people.

Malaria is caused by the bite of a female anopheles mosquito. It can only be spread by the bite of a female anopheles mosquito. Unlike the Aedes mosquito, malaria mosquito usually attacks during the night. Malaria occurs more frequently during hot, rainy seasons. The mosquito that causes malaria tends to bite at dusk or at night. It is also notable that malaria is caused by the parasite named plasmodium while microorganism causing dengue is from the Arbovirus family. This means that dengue is a viral disease while malaria is a protozoan parasitic disease.

What are the differences?


There is a great difference between the incubation period of dengue and malaria. Dengue symptoms appear after 4-5 days after being bitten. Meanwhile, malaria’s symptoms are delayed and appear approximately at 10-15 days after being bitten.


Dengue fever strikes the patient suddenly with an onset of fever that lasts for a long duration (about seven days). This fever can reach up to 39.5-41.4°C (103.1-106.52°F) and is usually accompanied with severe headache and bone pain. Dengue fever can disappear soon but usually reappears with skin rashes.

Malaria’s fever symptom is entirely different from dengue.  It keeps reoccurring in shorter periods and occurs with other symptoms like joint pain, vomiting, sweating, anemia etc. Malaria usually occurs in the following stages: chills, heat and sweating.

The platelet count of a patient reduces in dengue, whereas it remains unaffected in malaria.

Diagnosis and treatment

A chemical process is needed to confirm if a patient is infected with the dengue fever virus. The two tests that diagnose dengue are Antigen tests and Antibody test. On the other hand, microscopic tests of the visuals of the virus are done to determine malaria infection.

While both the diseases can be equally fatal, malaria is more manageable to cure than dengue. There are no drugs that exists to specifically treat dengue whereas anti-malarial drugs are available. Moreover, malaria's treatment methodology is well-established, whereas in dengue, only the symptoms can be managed (symptomatic treatment).

For proper treatment, it is essential that the patient is diagnosed for the accurate disease. Knowing the basic difference between both diseases can hasten application of treatment that can help alleviate a patient discomfort and prevent the condition from getting worse.

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