Skip to Content
Skip to Navigation

Dengue Fever

What is Dengue (deng-gay) Fever?

Dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever are viral illnesses transmitted by the bite/sting of a mosquito. The mosquito species that carries dengue virus is active, biting during daylight hours, with a peak of activity just after daybreak, and then again for several hours before dark. These insects are often present indoors, and are common in areas of human habitation, including urban and rural areas throughout the tropical areas of the world.

Symptoms

Symptoms of dengue fever include:

  • relatively sudden onset of high fever
  • severe frontal headache
  • muscle and joint pains
  • nausea / vomiting

On the third or fourth day of the fever, many people will develop a rash on the torso, which then spreads to the arms and legs.

Usually the illness is 'self-limited' in travelers and relatively mild, meaning it runs its course over a week or two, though in rare circumstances it can cause severe symptoms.

Another name for this illness is "break-bone fever" due to the extreme bone pain that can accompany this disease.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for classic dengue fever, and most people recover within 2 weeks. To help with recovery:

  • Get plenty of bed rest
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Take Acetaminophen to reduce fever (not aspirin nor non-steroidal anti-inflammatory products such as aspirin or ibuprofen)

Risk to Travelers

International travelers to areas where Dengue Fever occurs are at risk, more so if there is current epidemic activity underway at the time of the trip. Dengue is becoming an increasing health concern worldwide due to spread of significant disease in 2005-2007 in areas of the world without previous recent Dengue Fever.

Luckily, cases of severe Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever are rare, since this typically afflicts only those persons who reside in areas where dengue exists and are subject to repeated infections. Your travel health care adviser will let you know if dengue is a risk for you on your planned travel abroad.

Prevention of Dengue Fever

Since there is no vaccine against dengue at this time, the best prevention is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes in the first place. Follow these tips to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes:

  • stay in screened or air-conditioned environments as much as possible
  • use DEET-containing insect repellent on your skin.

Use of DEET repellents is important for health maintenance when traveling in the tropics.

Your travel health adviser will discuss use of DEET in preventing dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases including malaria during your Travel Clinic visit.

If You Have Dengue Fever

  • Avoid mosquito bites while you have a fever. Don't let mosquitoes bite you. They can infect other members of your family with dengue after biting you.
  • Use mosquito barriers until the fever subsides, to prevent day-biting mosquitoes from biting a sick person, becoming infected, and then biting someone else.
  • Rest in a screened room or under a bed net.
  • Use insect repellents and spray insecticide indoors if there are mosquitoes.

For more information

CDC Travelers' Health

Dengue Fever Fact Sheet (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)