BACKGROUND: This qualitative study aimed to provide an in-depth understanding of the meaning of dengue fever (DF) amongst people living in a dengue endemic region, dengue prevention and treatment-seeking behaviours. The Health Belief Model was used as a framework to explore and understand dengue prevention behaviours. METHODS: A total of 14 focus group discussions were conducted with 84 Malaysian citizens of different socio-demographic backgrounds between 16(th) December, 2011 and 12(th) May, 2012. RESULTS: The study revealed that awareness about DF and prevention measures were high. The pathophysiology of dengue especially dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS) were rarely known; as a result, it was seen as deadly by some but was also perceived as easily curable by others without a basis of understanding. Young adults and elderly participants had a low perception of susceptibility to DF. In general, the low perceived susceptibility emerged as two themes, namely a perceived natural ability to withstand infection and a low risk of being in contact with the dengue virus vector, Aedes spp. mosquitoes. The barriers to sustained self-prevention against dengue prevention that emerged in focus groups were: i) lack of self-efficacy, ii) lack of perceived benefit, iii) low perceived susceptibility, and iv) unsure perceived susceptibility. Low perceived benefit of continued dengue prevention practices was a result of lack of concerted action against dengue in their neighborhood. Traditional medical practices and home remedies were widely perceived and experienced as efficacious in treating DF. CONCLUSION: Behavioural change towards attaining sustainability in dengue preventive practices may be enhanced by fostering comprehensive knowledge of dengue and a change in health beliefs. Wide use of unconventional therapy for DF warrants the need to enlighten the public to limit their reliance on unproven alternative treatments.