During the Cuban dengue epidemics of 1981 and 1997, significant monthly increases were observed in the proportion of total cases that presented as dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome (DHF/DSS), and in case-fatality rates for both dengue fever and DHF/DSS. We believe that theses increases can be explained by the hypothesis that some of the population of antibodies against dengue 1 virus raised after natural primary infections react with "neutralisation" determinants found on dengue 2 viruses. These heterotypic antibodies do not prevent secondary dengue 2 infections, but serve to down-regulate the disease to mild illness or symptomless infections. A population of dengue 2 viruses that replicates in dengue-1-immune hosts escape heterotypic neutralisation. When inoculated into a new dengue-1-immune host, these viruses are free to interact with the more abundant infection-enhancing antibodies to produce severe disease.