Dengue fever is a flu-like illness. The infection is passed to humans through mosquito bites. Children and infants who are infected may have no symptoms or only a minor, flu-like illness. Adults who become infected may develop a more severe, life-threatening illness.
Dengue fever is caused by 1 of 4 specific dengue viruses. They are passed to humans by
infected mosquitoes. The bite can allow the virus to enter the bloodstream and spread through the body. Once in the body, the virus may cause dengue fever.
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Travel to tropical or subtropical areas can increase your chance of getting dengue fever. Areas with known dengue fever include: AfricaIndiaSoutheast Asia and ChinaMiddle EastCountries in the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico) and Central and South AmericaAustraliaLocations in the Central and South PacificOccasionally in Florida (Key West) and Texas (bordering Mexico)
Young children or those with their first infection may have mild symptoms. Primary symptoms are a high fever and at least 2 of the following: Severe headacheSevere eye painChills and feverMuscle and or bone painRed or purple spots in skinMinor bleeding in the nose or gumEasy bruisingNausea/vomiting
The fever tends to reduce within 3-7 days after symptoms begin. As the fever decreases, warning signs of a severe infection may appear, such as: Severe abdominal painPersistent vomitingUncontrolled bleeding from gums or noseBlack tarry stools or blood in the urineLethargy or restlessnessDifficulty breathingPale, cold, or clammy skinLightheadedness
A severe infection can lead to shock and organ failure.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will also be asked whether you recently travelled to high-risk areas.
Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
You may be referred to a specialist.
There are no medications currently available that can provide a cure. Treatment is aimed at providing support while the body fights off and eliminates the virus. Supportive care may include: Bed rest—Your body will need rest while you recover from your illness.Hydration—Drink plenty of beverages throughout the day. This will help to replace fluids, sugars, and salts lost during the illness. If you are unable to drink enough, you may need to receive IV fluids.Pain and fever relief—Acetaminophen may be advised to treat pain and fever. Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are generally not advised. Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking.
If you are in an area with known dengue fever, the following steps may help decrease your risk of dengue fever: Spend your time in locations that are protected by insect screens or are air-conditioned.Cover your skin. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and socks and shoes.Use insect repellents on your skin and your clothing. Look for repellents that contain DEET.Use proper mosquito netting at night. Look for netting treated with insecticide.Stay inside or take extra precautions in the early morning, late afternoon, and early evening. Mosquitoes are most likely to bite during these times.Do not leave standing water in buckets, flowers pots, or other containers. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
Vaccines are under development, but are not currently available or have limited availability outside of the US.
Dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/dengue. Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2016.
Dengue. World Health Organization (WHO) website. Available at:
Accessed May 31, 2016.
Dengue fever. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/denguefever/Pages/default.aspx. Updated March 16, 2016.
Accessed May 31, 2016.
10/1/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116824/Dengue: Reimer LJ, Thomsen EK, Tisch DJ, et al. Insecticidal bed nets and filariasis transmission in Papua New Guinea. N Eng J Med. 2013; 369(8):745-753.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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