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.
Travel to tropical or subtropical areas can increase your chance of getting dengue fever. Areas with known dengue fever include:
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:
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:
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:
If you are in an area with known dengue fever, the following steps may help decrease your risk of dengue fever:
Vaccines are under development, but are not currently available or have limited availability outside of the US.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Public Health Agency of Canada
Dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/dengue. Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2016.
Dengue. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116824/Dengue. Updated May 8, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2016.
Dengue. World Health Organization (WHO) website. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/dengue/en. 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 January 2018 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.