Background Since 1981, >12 million cases of dengue have been reported in Brazil. Early prediction of severe dengue with no warning signs is crucial to avoid progression to severe dengue. Here we aimed to identify early markers of dengue severity and characterize dengue infection in patients in Rio de Janeiro.
Methods We evaluated early severity markers, serotypes, infection status, number of days of illness and viral loads associated with dengue fever in patients from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through an observational retrospective study (1986–2012). We compared dengue without warning signs and dengue with warning signs/severe dengue (DWWS/SD). Infection status was classified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and viraemia was quantified by quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.
Results The presence of DWWS/ SD was significantly associated with younger age; patients 13–19 y of age had a significantly greater chance of presenting warning signs. Dengue virus type 3 (DENV3) was more likely to induce DWWS/SD, which was more frequent on days 4–5 of illness.
Conclusions DENV3, 4–5 d of illness and 13–19 y of age were early biomarkers of dengue severity. To our knowledge, this was the first study to analyse the characteristics of dengue severity in the state of Rio de Janeiro over 27 y of epidemics since the introduction of DENV.