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Paediatr Int Child Health. 2012 May;32 Suppl 1:33-8. doi: 10.1179/2046904712Z.00000000052.

The revised WHO dengue case classification: does the system need to be modified?

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Department of Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Indonesia, Dr Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Jakarta, Indonesia.


There has been considerable debate regarding the value of both the 1997 and 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) dengue case classification criteria for its diagnosis and management. Differentiation between classic dengue fever (DF) and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) or severe dengue is a key aspect of dengue case classification. The geographic expansion of dengue and its increased incidence in older age groups have contributed to the limited applicability of the 1997 case definitions. Clinical experience of dengue suggests that the illness presents as a spectrum of disease instead of distinct phases. However, despite the rigid grouping of dengue into DF, DHF and dengue shock syndrome (DSS), overlap between the different manifestations has often been observed, which has affected clinical management and triage of patients. The findings of the DENCO study evaluating the 1997 case definitions formed the basis of the revised 2009 WHO case definitions, which classified the illness into dengue with and without warning signs and severe dengue. Although the revised scheme is more sensitive to the diagnosis of severe dengue, and beneficial to triage and case management, there remain issues with its applicability. It is considered by many to be too broad, requiring more specific definition of warning signs. Quantitative research into the predictive value of these warning signs on patient outcomes and the cost-effectiveness of the new classification system is required to ascertain whether the new classification system requires further modification, or whether elements of both classification systems can be combined.

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