Rapid Testing Can Aid in the Diagnosis of Dengue and COVID-19

    Rapid Testing Can Aid in the Diagnosis of Dengue and COVID-19

    Dengue is a viral infection. The bite of infected mosquitos is one of the main causes of dengue. The primary vectors that transmit the disease are Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.¹

    How is dengue transmitted?

    Dengue fever caused by the Dengue Virus (DENV) is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.¹ A mosquito becomes infected after it takes a blood meal from a dengue-infected person.¹

    Dengue is not transmitted from person to person.²

    After about a week, the Aedes mosquito is able to spread the disease to another person when it bites them for a blood meal. The mosquito then remains infective for the rest of its lifespan.²

    A person may develop symptoms after being bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito after an incubation period of 3 to 14 days with 75% of dengue infections being asymptomatic.²

    dengue test kit

    Where is it found?

    Dengue is prevalent according to seasons.³ The majority of cases in the southern hemisphere occur in the early part of the year, and most cases of the northern hemisphere take place in the second half of the year.³

    Most of these are in tropical and sub-tropical climate countries worldwide, in urban and semi-urban areas.¹

    These include:⁴

    • Southeast Asia
    • the Caribbean
    • the Indian subcontinent
    • South and Central America
    • Africa
    • the Pacific Islands
    • Australia

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been confusion in diagnosis between COVID-19 and dengue, particularly in tropical countries, where the physical stages of these two illnesses may overlap.

    COVID-19 overview

    What is it?

    COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2.

    How is Covid-19 transmitted?

    Unlike dengue, Covid-19 is mainly transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets that are spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.⁵

    What happens to the body with dengue

    Dengue usually develops suddenly, about 5 to 10 days after a person becomes infected.³

    Clinical stages of dengue

    There are several dengue fever phases, key amongst which include:

    Fever. Dengue usually starts suddenly with a high fever as high as 40-41 ‘C, and usually continues for 2-7 days.

    Body ache. Some may experience pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain.

    Rashes. A rash that does not blanch on pressure may also be present. This may appear 3 to 4 days after the start of the fever.

    Feeling sick. Vomiting and loss of appetite is also a common complaint. This is also frequently followed by stomach pain.

    Severe dengue

    In very rare cases, a small subset of patients may sometimes progress to severe dengue (Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, DHF), which may, on the odd chance, turn fatal.

    Those that are prone to developing DHF are people who have had dengue before (resurgence of dengue) and are thought to be most at risk of severe dengue if they become infected again with another strain.³ There are four DENV serotypes, and each infection can result in a total of four infections.¹

    Elderly patients with multiple comorbidities (medical conditions) are more likely to develop severe dengue as well.⁷

    Clinical manifestation of DHF

    DHF manifests with bleeding spots on the skin and other parts of the body and leakage of blood plasma. Severe dengue fever, rare as it may be, could damage the lungs, liver, or heart.

    Diagnosis and treatment of dengue

    There is no specific medicine to treat dengue. Most times, treatment is self-supportive, allowing you to manage your symptoms at home until the infection is gone. Supportive care such as paracetamol and painkillers can be taken to control the symptoms of muscle aches, pains, and fever.

    For prompt treatment, a dengue rapid test is performed to confirm a patient has been infected with the virus that causes dengue fever. Laboratory tests are very helpful in the diagnosis of dengue fever and also used to monitor the progress of patients infected by dengue.⁹

    Dengue rapid test: A faster way to diagnosis

    The dengue rapid test is essentially a simple dengue blood test and is designed to detect NS1 antigens present in the dengue virus. NS1 tests detect the non-structural protein NS1 which is secreted into the blood during dengue infection.¹⁰

    NS1 antigens interact with the host immune system and evoke the immune system’s response to produce Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M( IgM) antibodies.¹¹

    Dengue rapid test has been used as a reliable diagnostic marker of infection.11 It is a good way to detect the early indication of infection within the first few days, even before the appearance of antibodies which can take time with laboratory testing.¹¹

    Benefits of dengue rapid tests

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of a dengue rapid test kit to detect dengue NS1 antigen.¹²

    A few among the many benefits of dengue rapid tests are:

    • results within 15 to 20 minutes¹³
    • the accuracy of the NS1 antigen rapid test is considered high with sensitivity 55%-82% and specificity 97%-100%¹²
    • less time spent waiting for laboratory test results and at hospitals
    • allows for faster administration of treatment

    Dengue prevention

    The use of pesticides to limit mosquito populations as well as fewer open water-holding facilities that enable mosquito reproduction are key components of traditional dengue prevention and management measures.

    Dengue outbreaks are still probable, and it is difficult to achieve sustainable decreases in mosquito populations. Wearing protective gear and using personal repellents can help prevent mosquito bites.


    Early and rapid confirmation of dengue infections strengthens disease surveillance programs and can help with the management of dengue. Dengue rapid diagnostics tests are a good way to confirm dengue infections due to their ease of use and short turnaround time for results. This is beneficial in the success of vector control measures.

    Keep yourself and your family safe with quicker diagnosis using dengue rapid tests. Find out more here.

    हैलो हेल्थ ग्रुप हेल्थ सलाह, निदान और इलाज इत्यादि सेवाएं नहीं देता।

    1. World Health Organization (WHO). Dengue and Severe Dengue. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    2. Ministry of Health, Singapore. Dengue. https://www.moh.gov.sg/diseases-updates/dengue. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    3. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Dengue. https://www.paho.org/en/topics/dengue.  Accessed 19 September 2022.
    4. National Health Service UK (NHS). Dengue. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Is it Dengue or is it COVID-19? https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/healthcare-providers/dengue-or-covid.html. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    6.  Ministry of Health, Malaysia (MOH). What is dengue. http://denggi.myhealth.gov.my/what-is-dengue/?lang=en. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    7. Health Exchange, Singapore. When dengue fever becomes severe dengue. https://www.healthxchange.sg/children/health-scares-outbreaks/dengue-fever-severe-dengue. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    8. World Health Organization (WHO). Dengue and Severe Dengue. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    9.  Ministry of Health, Malaysia (MOH). What is dengue. http://denggi.myhealth.gov.my/what-is-dengue/?lang=en. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    10. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dengue Virus Antigen Detection. https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/healthcare-providers/testing/antigen-detection.html. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    11. Beltrán-Silva et al (2018). Clinical and differential diagnosis: Dengue, chikungunya y Zika. Revista Médica del Hospital General de México 81 (3): 146-153 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309294765_Clinical_and_differential_diagnosis_Dengue_chikungunya_and_Zika
    12. National Library of Medicine. Accuracy of dengue clinical diagnosis with and without NS1 antigen rapid test: Comparison between human and Bayesian network model decisions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6023245/. Accessed 19 September 2022.
    13. PlusOne Journal. Rapid diagnostic tests for the detection of recent dengue infections: An evaluation of six kits on clinical specimens https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0249602. Accessed 19 September 2022
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