Dengue Fever

Overview

What is dengue fever?

Dengue (DEN-ghee) fever is an infection that occurs after the bite of an infected mosquito. Most cases in the United States occur in people who have traveled to areas where dengue is common.

Dengue fever occurs mostly in tropical regions worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia, Africa and tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean, and North, Central, and South America. In recent years, it has occurred in the United States and parts of Australia. Up to half of the world’s population may be at risk for contracting dengue fever.

What is dengue hemorrhagic fever?

Severe cases of dengue fever can develop into a condition called dengue hemorrhagic fever. Patients who have dengue hemorrhagic fever have the same symptoms of dengue fever. However, when the fever goes down, the patient can have more serious symptoms, including continuous vomiting, severe abdominal pain and difficulty breathing.

If it is not treated, dengue hemorrhagic fever can cause nosebleeds, bleeding gums and internal bleeding. This is a serious condition that needs immediate medical care.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes dengue fever?

Dengue fever develops after a bite from a mosquito. The mosquito acquires the virus by biting someone who is already infected, and then transmits it to another person. Dengue fever does not spread directly from person to person.

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?

Dengue fever symptoms are similar to flu symptoms and occur 3-14 days after the mosquito bite. Dengue fever is usually diagnosed when a patient has a high fever and two of the following symptoms:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is dengue fever diagnosed?

To diagnose dengue fever, doctors use specific blood tests that identify dengue virus antibodies in the blood. These antibodies only appear when your body is exposed to one of the four dengue viruses.

Management and Treatment

How is dengue fever treated?

There is no treatment for dengue fever. If your doctor thinks you have a mild case of dengue fever, he or she will recommend that you rest, take pain relievers such as acetaminophen (do not take aspirin) and drink a lot of fluids. If you have more serious symptoms, such as vomiting or strong pain in the abdomen, you should seek medical care.

Prevention

Can dengue fever be prevented?

If you live in or travel to an area that has dengue fever, avoid mosquito bites by doing the following:

  • Use mosquito repellents that contain 20-30% DEET.
  • Wear long clothing outdoors, especially at night when mosquitos are more likely to be active.
  • Remove standing water (buckets or barrels, bird baths, old tires that may hold rain water) and fill low spots where water can pool.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who have dengue fever?

In most cases, people who have dengue fever make full recoveries. However, people who develop dengue hemorrhagic fever need prompt medical attention.

Living With

When should I call my doctor about dengue fever?

If you have signs and symptoms that might be those of dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever, contact your doctor immediately. He or she can evaluate you to determine if you are infected and need special care.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/17/2018.

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dengue: Frequently Asked Questions. (https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/faqfacts/index.html) Accessed 3/30/2018.
  • World Health Organization. Dengue and severe dengue. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/) Accessed 3/30/2018.
  • National Institutes of Health. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Dengue fever. (https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6254/dengue-fever) Accessed 3/30/2018.

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