Dengue fever is a virus-caused disease that is spread by mosquitoes.
O'nyong-nyong fever; Dengue-like disease; Breakbone fever
Dengue fever is caused by 1 of 4 different but related viruses. It is spread by the bite of mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which is found in tropic and subtropic regions. This area includes parts of:
- Indonesian archipelago into northeastern Australia
- South and Central America
- Southeast Asia
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Some parts of the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands)
Dengue fever is rare in the US mainland, but has been found in Florida and Texas. Dengue fever should not be confused with dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is a separate disease caused by the same type of virus, but has much more severe symptoms.
Dengue fever begins with a sudden high fever, often as high as 105°F (40.5°C), 4 to 7 days after the infection.
A flat, red rash may appear over most of the body 2 to 5 days after the fever starts. A second rash, which looks like the measles, appears later in the disease. Infected people may have increased skin sensitivity and are very uncomfortable.
Other symptoms include:
- Headache (especially behind the eyes)
- Joint aches (often severe)
- Muscle aches (often severe)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Nasal stuffiness
Exams and Tests
Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:
- Antibody titer for dengue virus types
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for dengue virus types
- Liver function tests
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Fluids are given if there are signs of dehydration. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is used to treat a high fever.
Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). They may increase bleeding problems.
The condition generally lasts a week or more. Although uncomfortable, dengue fever is not deadly. People with the condition should fully recover.
Untreated, dengue fever may cause the following health problems:
- Febrile convulsions
- Severe dehydration
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have traveled in an area where dengue fever is known to occur and you have symptoms of the disease.
Clothing, mosquito repellent, and netting can help reduce the risk for mosquito bites that can spread dengue fever and other infections. Limit outdoor activity during mosquito season, especially when they are most active, at dawn and dusk.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Dengue. www.cdc.gov/dengue/index.html. Updated May 3, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2019.
Endy TP. Viral febrile illnesses and emerging pathogens. In: Ryan ET, Hill DR, Solomon T, Aronson NE, Endy TP, eds. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 36.
Thomas SJ, Endy TP, Rothman AL, Barrett AD. Flaviviruses (dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile encephalitis, Usutu encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, Kyasanur forest disease, Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever, Zika). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 153.
- Last reviewed on 8/25/2019
- Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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