Background Dengue fever is the most common mosquito-borne infection worldwide where an expanding surveillance and characterization of this infection are needed to better inform the healthcare system. In this surveillance-based study, we explored the prevalence and distinguishing features of dengue fever amongst febrile patients in a large community-based health facility in southern peninsular Malaysia. Methods Over six months in 2018, we recruited 368 adults who met the WHO 2009 criteria for proba-ble dengue infection. They underwent the following blood tests: full blood count, dengue virus (DENV) rapid diagnostic test (RDT), ELISA (dengue IgM and IgG), nested RT-PCR for dengue, multiplex qRT-PCR for Zika, Chikungunya and dengue as well as PCR tests for Leptopspira spp., Japanese encephalitis and West Nile virus. Results Laboratory-confirmed dengue infections (defined by positive tests in NS1, IgM, high-titre IgG or nested RT-PCR) were found in 167 (45.4%) patients. Of these 167 dengue patients, only 104 (62.3%) were positive on rapid diagnostic testing. Dengue infection was significantly associated with the following features: family or neighbours with dengue in the past week (AOR: 3.59, 95% CI:2.14–6.00, p<0.001), cutaneous rash (AOR: 3.58, 95% CI:1.77– 7.23, p<0.001), increased temperature (AOR: 1.33, 95% CI:1.04–1.70, p = 0.021), leucope-nia (white cell count < 4,000/μL) (AOR: 3.44, 95% CI:1.72–6.89, p<0.001) and thrombocyto-penia (platelet count <150,000/μL)(AOR: 4.63, 95% CI:2.33–9.21, p<0.001). Dengue infection was negatively associated with runny nose (AOR: 0.47, 95% CI:0.29–0.78, p = 0.003) and arthralgia (AOR: 0.42, 95% CI:0.24–0.75, p = 0.004). Serotyping by nested RT-PCR revealed mostly mono-infections with DENV-2 (n = 64), DENV-1 (n = 32) and DENV-3 (n = 17); 14 co-infections occurred with DENV-1/DENV-2 (n = 13) and DENV-1/DENV-4 (n = 1). Besides dengue, none of the pathogens above were found in patients’ serum. Conclusions Acute undifferentiated febrile infections are a diagnostic challenge for community-based cli-nicians. Rapid diagnostic tests are increasingly used to diagnose dengue infection but negative tests should be interpreted with caution as they fail to detect a considerable proportion of dengue infection. Certain clinical features and haematological parameters are important in the clinical diagnosis of dengue infection.