This review is an update of dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) based on international and Cuban experience. We describe the virus characteristics and risk factors for dengue and DHF, and compare incidence and the case fatality rates in endemic regions (southeast Asia, western Pacific, and the Americas). The clinical picture and the pathogenesis of the severe disease are explained. We also discuss the viral, individual, and environmental factors that determine severe disease. Much more research is necessary to clarify these mechanisms. Also reviewed are methods for viral isolation and the serological, immunohistochemical, and molecular methods applied in the diagnosis of the disease. We describe the status of vaccine development and emphasise that the only alternative that we have today to control the disease is through control of its vector Aedes aegypti.