Dengue (say "DEN-gay") fever is a disease caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitos. Mild cases cause a rash and flu-like symptoms. Some people, especially children, can get more serious forms of the illness (severe dengue).
Dengue fever is spread through the bite of mosquitoes that carry the virus. These mosquitos bite during the day. The biggest risk is at cooler times of the day like sunrise or late in the afternoon. The mosquitos breed in standing water, usually in cities or towns. The virus cannot spread from person to person through casual contact. People who have dengue fever should be protected from mosquito bites. If a mosquito bites an infected person, the mosquito becomes infected with the virus and can pass it to other people.
Dengue is found throughout the tropics and subtropics. It is widespread throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Dengue outbreaks have happened in southern parts of the United States and Hawaii.
The symptoms most commonly appear 3 to 14 days after a person gets bitten by an infected mosquito. They usually include flu-like symptoms such as:
It is common for some people to show no symptoms and most people recover from dengue fever after a few days. In rare cases, people with dengue fever develop severe dengue. Warning signs usually happen 3 to 7 days after the first symptoms, and include a decrease in fever, bleeding from the nose or gums, fatigue, severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting and trouble breathing.
If you have symptoms of dengue fever, see your doctor or go to the hospital right away.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any recent travel. He or she may order a blood test to confirm whether you have dengue fever.
There is no medicine for treating dengue fever. Mild cases may be treated at home with rest and plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. You may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. But don't take anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), or naproxen (such as Aleve). They may increase the risk of bleeding. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. People with mild cases of dengue fever usually feel better within 2 weeks.
Severe dengue, the more serious form of dengue fever, usually requires treatment in a hospital. You may need intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration. You also may need a blood transfusion to replace lost blood. You will be closely watched for signs of shock.
There is no vaccine to prevent dengue fever. And people who have had it before can get it again.
Avoid areas where dengue fever and mosquitoes are present if you are at higher risk (e.g., are pregnant, very young, or very old).
If you plan to travel to an area where dengue fever is common, make sure to protect yourself against mosquito bites. Here are some guidelines:
If you are planning international travel, you can learn about the risk of dengue fever in the area you're travelling to by contacting:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Dengue: Epidemiology. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/epidemiology/index.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Locally acquired dengue—Key West, Florida, 2009–2010. MMWR, 59(19): 577–581. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5919a1.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Dengue hemorrhagic fever—U.S.-Mexico border, 2005. MMWR, 56(31): 785–789. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5631a1.htm. [Erratum in MMWR, 56(32):822. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5632a5.htm.]
Current as ofJuly 30, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious DiseaseLeslie A. Tengelsen, PhD, DVM - Epidemiology
Current as of: July 30, 2018
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease & Leslie A. Tengelsen, PhD, DVM - Epidemiology
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