What is dengue fever?
Dengue (pronounced DEN-gee) fever is a viral disease. It is transmitted by mosquitoes
mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The disease is most common
- South Pacific
- South Central Asia
- Central and South America
Dengue fever happens most often in urban areas. But it may be found in rural areas.
The mosquitoes that carry the virus usually pass it on during and shortly after the
rainy season. The mosquitoes are most active during the day. They are found near human
dwellings, often indoors. About half of the world's population is now at risk for
What causes dengue fever?
Dengue fever is caused by a virus. A certain type of mosquito (Aedes) passes the virus
to people through its bites.
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
Dengue fever causes a severe flu-like illness. It may be look like other diseases
such as the flu or malaria. The illness usually lasts 3 to 7 days. Symptoms may include:
- Sudden high fever
- Severe headaches
- Pain behind the eyes
- Joint and muscle pain
- Swollen glands
- Rash that appears 3 to 4 days after the fever starts
A very small portion of people with dengue fever get a severe case. It’s called dengue
hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms show up as the fever begins to ease. These may include
vomiting that does not go away, rapid breathing, blood in vomit, and bleeding gums.
How is dengue fever diagnosed?
A special blood test can diagnose dengue fever. It can find the virus or antibodies
made in response to the virus. See your healthcare provider if you get sick within
a month of returning from travel in a tropical area. Your provider will ask you for
your complete travel history. He or she can then figure out if your symptoms may be
a dengue infection.
How is dengue fever treated?
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
- How old you are
- Your overall health and past health
- How sick you are
- How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- How long the condition is expected to last
- Your opinion or preference
Dengue fever is generally treated with supportive care such as pain relievers, bed
rest and fluids. You may take acetaminophen to lower the fever. But you should not
take aspirin, ibuprofen, or any NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). In severe
cases, you may need medical care right away from healthcare providers familiar with
the disease. This can greatly cut the risk of death.
What are the complications of dengue fever?
Severe dengue fever can be fatal if not treated right away. Other effects of severe
- Severe bleeding
- Breathing problems
- Organ damage
How can dengue fever be prevented?
There is no widely used or FDA-approved vaccine for dengue fever. Travelers should
avoid mosquito bites by:
- Using DEET based insect repellents on the skin and clothing
- Using permethrin sprayed or soaked clothing as the Aedes mosquitoes bite during the
- Staying in well-screened or air conditioned areas
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your healthcare provider if you have fever within 3 weeks of travelling to an
area affected by the disease. Also call your healthcare provider right away if your
symptoms get worse or you have new ones.
- Dengue fever is caused by a virus passed on by the bite of a daytime biting mosquito.
- Dengue fever occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
- The disease causes a severe flu-like illness. It is generally treated with bed rest
- When traveling to areas that have dengue fever, avoid mosquito bites. Use insect repellents
on skin and clothing.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.