Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is dengue fever?

Dengue (pronounced den gee) is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, with the greatest risks occurring in:

  • South Pacific

  • South Central Asia

  • Caribbean

  • Central and South America

  • Africa

Dengue fever occurs most often in urban areas, but may be found in rural areas. Transmission of the virus, via Aedes mosquitoes, usually occurs during and shortly after the rainy season. These mosquitoes are most active during the day and are found near human dwellings, often indoors.

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?

Dengue fever may be confused with other infectious diseases such as influenza or malaria. Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden onset, high fever

  • Severe headaches

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Rash that appears three to four days after the onset of fever

The illness may last up to 10 days, with recovery often taking two to four weeks.

More severe, but less common, forms of the disease include dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. Among these diseases, symptoms resemble those of dengue fever, but may progress to faintness, shock, and generalized bleeding.

How can dengue fever be prevented?

Because there is not a vaccine for dengue fever, travelers should:

  • Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents on skin and clothing.

  • Stay in well screened or air conditioned areas.

When sleeping areas are not air conditioned or screened, the use of aerosol insecticides indoors and bednets are recommended.

How is dengue fever diagnosed?

Dengue fever infection is diagnosed by a special blood test to determine the presence of the virus or antibodies. See your doctor if you become sick within a month of returning from travel in a tropical area, and be prepared to give your complete travel itinerary, so that the doctor can evaluate the possibility that your symptoms were caused by a dengue infection.

Treatment for dengue fever

Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The symptoms of dengue fever are generally treated with bed rest and fluids. Medications may be used to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen, but aspirin should be avoided.