Expert Talk: The Difference Between Dengue, COVID and Malaria

Do you get confused between dengue, malaria and COVID-19? Read this article as expert explains key differences between them.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarPublished at: Aug 08, 2022Updated at: Aug 08, 2022
Expert Talk: The Difference Between Dengue, COVID and Malaria

The monsoons are most unpredictable, not just in terms of rain showers but also health issues. Since a lot of flus, infections, and diseases are prevalent in the rainy season, it makes it difficult for us to identify why we fall ill. Right now, we have covid, dengue, malaria, chikungunya,  seasonal flu, swine flu, typhoid, etc., and most of them have similar symptoms. The three illnesses with nearly the same set of signs and symptoms are dengue, malaria, and covid. We reached out to Dr. Charu Dutta Arora, Consultant Physician and Infectious Disease Specialist at Amerihome Healthcare Asian Hospital to understand how to differentiate between the three illnesses.

Dengue, Covid, or Malaria?

As the monsoons are around, so are the cases of acute febrile illness which are viral borne and spread by mosquitoes such as Dengue and Malaria. Both are due to bites from mosquitoes. And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic (which is again seeing a spike in cases across the country), it can be confusing for a common man to differentiate between these three infections. All cause inflammation in the body and have some overlapping symptoms such as fever, chills, lethargy, fatigue, gastrointestinal manifestations, and weakness. But all are entirely different entities.

Also Read: Why India Sees Massive Dengue Outbreaks Every Year

Cause of the disease

While everyone is aware that COVID-19 is caused by a virus called Coronavirus, Dengue is also a viral illness which is due to Flavivirus. On the other hand, Malaria is a parasitic illness which is caused by Plasmodium parasite. Both Dengue and Malaria are spread by mosquito bites (Culex and Anopheles respectively).

Dengue, COVID and Malaria

Incubation period

Incubation period is when the symptoms start to appear after exposure to a disease-causing agent. In COVID-19, this period is acute, averaging around four to seven days. It is acute in Dengue which can be around two to five days and can go upto seven to 30 days in the case of Malaria.

None of these three illnesses  show symptoms immediately.

Also Read: Frequently Asked Questions about Malaria


As some of the symptoms are overlapping as discussed above, the salient and unique symptoms of each disease are as follows:

  • COVID-19: loss of taste, smell, throat pain, headache, extreme weakness, hair fall, cough, bleeding, respiratory issues and pneumonia.
  • Dengue: high grade fever, abdominal pain, loose motions, bleeding from gums and nose, rash, joint pain, retro orbital headache, fluid in the lungs and shock.
  • Malaria: high grade fever, chills, sweating, nausea, dry cough, involvement of spleen, bloody stools, and cerebral fever.

Vaccine and Treatment

There are vaccines for prevention of COVID-19. One may still get infected with COVID-19 even after getting fully vaccinated but the symptoms and severity would be very less as compared to unvaccinated people.

On the other hand, there is no vaccine available for Dengue and Malaria.

The treatment strategies are supportive, focusing on antipyretics, fluid, and electrolyte management, antibiotics if any co-infection. The role of isolation is mandatory in an illness such as COVID-19 but it is not required for the other two monsoon illnesses.

Image credits- freepik