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Dengue fever

O'nyong-nyong fever; Dengue-like disease; Breakbone fever

Dengue fever is a virus-caused disease that is spread by mosquitoes.

Causes

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. 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.

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache (especially behind the eyes)
  • Joint aches (often severe)
  • Muscle aches (often severe)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal stuffiness

Exams and Tests

Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:

Treatment

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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition generally lasts a week or more. Although uncomfortable, dengue fever is not deadly. People with the condition should fully recover.

Possible Complications

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.

Prevention

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.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Dengue. www.cdc.gov/dengue/index.html. Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed October 23, 2017.

Thomas SJ, Endy TP, Rothman AL, Barrett AD. Flaviviruses (dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile 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, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 155.

Yacoub S, Farrar J. Dengue. In: Farrar J, Hotez PJ, Junghanss T, Kang G, Lalloo D, White NJ, eds. Manson's Tropical Diseases. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 15.

  • Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin

    Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin - illustration

    There are many different species of mosquito, which can carry some of the world's most common and significant infectious diseases, including West Nile, Malaria, yellow fever, viral encephalitis, and dengue fever. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin

    illustration

  • Dengue fever

    Dengue fever - illustration

    Dengue fever, or West Nile fever, is a mild viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes which causes fever, rashes and muscle and joint aches. Treatment includes rehydration and recovery is expected. A second exposure to the virus can result in Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a life-threatening illness.

    Dengue fever

    illustration

  • Mosquito, adult

    Mosquito, adult - illustration

    This illustration shows an adult southern house mosquito. This mosquito feeds on blood and is the carrier of many diseases, such as encephalitis, West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever, and others. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Mosquito, adult

    illustration

  • Mosquito egg raft

    Mosquito egg raft - illustration

    Mosquitoes of the Culex species lay their eggs in the form of egg rafts that float in still or stagnant water. The mosquito lays the eggs one at a time sticking them together in the shape of a raft. An egg raft can contain from 100 to 400 eggs. The eggs go through larval and pupal stages and feed on micro-organisms before developing into flying mosquitoes. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Mosquito egg raft

    illustration

  • Mosquito - larvae

    Mosquito - larvae - illustration

    This picture shows mosquito larvae, an early stage of the mosquito life cycle. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Mosquito - larvae

    illustration

  • Mosquito, pupa

    Mosquito, pupa - illustration

    These are mosquito pupa. This is another stage in the development of the mosquito. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Mosquito, pupa

    illustration

  • Antibodies

    Antibodies - illustration

    Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

    Antibodies

    illustration

    • Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin

      Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin - illustration

      There are many different species of mosquito, which can carry some of the world's most common and significant infectious diseases, including West Nile, Malaria, yellow fever, viral encephalitis, and dengue fever. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Mosquito, adult feeding on the skin

      illustration

    • Dengue fever

      Dengue fever - illustration

      Dengue fever, or West Nile fever, is a mild viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes which causes fever, rashes and muscle and joint aches. Treatment includes rehydration and recovery is expected. A second exposure to the virus can result in Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a life-threatening illness.

      Dengue fever

      illustration

    • Mosquito, adult

      Mosquito, adult - illustration

      This illustration shows an adult southern house mosquito. This mosquito feeds on blood and is the carrier of many diseases, such as encephalitis, West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever, and others. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Mosquito, adult

      illustration

    • Mosquito egg raft

      Mosquito egg raft - illustration

      Mosquitoes of the Culex species lay their eggs in the form of egg rafts that float in still or stagnant water. The mosquito lays the eggs one at a time sticking them together in the shape of a raft. An egg raft can contain from 100 to 400 eggs. The eggs go through larval and pupal stages and feed on micro-organisms before developing into flying mosquitoes. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Mosquito egg raft

      illustration

    • Mosquito - larvae

      Mosquito - larvae - illustration

      This picture shows mosquito larvae, an early stage of the mosquito life cycle. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Mosquito - larvae

      illustration

    • Mosquito, pupa

      Mosquito, pupa - illustration

      These are mosquito pupa. This is another stage in the development of the mosquito. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Mosquito, pupa

      illustration

    • Antibodies

      Antibodies - illustration

      Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

      Antibodies

      illustration

     

    Review Date: 9/27/2017

    Reviewed By: 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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