Dengue Fever

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is a virus that is contracted from mosquitoes in tropical areas. It comes on fast and it can affect anyone. People who have lowered immune systems are more susceptible to it.  Symptoms manifest themselves approximately two weeks after infection. Dengue fever is related to yellow fever and West Nile infection and the majority of cases in the United States are connected to people traveling abroad, in the areas at risk.

It is caused by more serotypes (there are 5) so you can get it more than once; you can only get dengue fever from each serotype once though. The virus is carried by the same mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

What are the Symptoms of Dengue Fever?

Symptoms usually last for approximately ten days after they first occur. If mild, this disesease can be mistaken for common flu.

Symptoms include

Some of the most common symptoms of dengue fever include headache, chills, eye pain, lower backache, and appetite loss. Some experience pain in the legs and joints at the beginning of the illness. A high temperature (sometimes as high as 104 F/40 C), low blood pressure, and low heart rate are also experienced by those who have dengue fever. Swollen lymph nodes, red eyes, and a pink toned rash are some of the other symptoms.

Dengue Fever Causes

Dengue fever is a sickness caused by one of the four types of dengue viruses that spread through mosquito bites. After a mosquito bites someone who is infected with dengue virus, that virus infiltrates the mosquito. Later, when an infected mosquito bites someone else, the virus is transmitted to that person via their bloodstream.

People who recover from dengue fever develop immunity to the strain of the virus that infected them but not to the other four dengue strains. The threat of developing a severe case of dengue fever, otherwise called dengue hemorrhagic fever, increases if a person is infected a second, third or fourth time.

Risk factors for developing dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever include:

  • Traveling or living in tropical and subtropical locations increases the risk of being exposed to the dengue fever virus. Some high-risk areas include the western Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • A past infection of dengue fever virus increases the risk of having more severe symptoms should you be infected again.

How is Dengue Fever Treated?

Antibiotics and antiviral medications are not helpful for dengue fever because it is caused by a virus; therefore, doctors focus on treating the symptoms. Fluids and rest are one of the first things doctors will recommend. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help but should only be taken with a doctor’s recommendation because of the risk of bleeding complications. Other pain relievers, like codeine, may be recommended by doctors if you have severe joint or muscle pain or headaches.

Dengue Fever Prevention

There is no existing vaccine against dengue fever and only by avoiding mosquito bites can you prevent yourself from contracting the virus.

If you are in an at-risk area some of the ways you can avoid infection include:

  • Use mosquito nets treated with insecticide.
  • Reducing the amount of exposed by wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks, and tucking your pant legs into your shoes or socks, while also wearing a hat.
  • Using mosquito repellent with at least a 10% concentration of diethyltoluamide or DEET, or using a higher concentration in cases of extended exposure. Do not use DEET on younger children.
  • Use mosquito nets that have been treated with insecticide, which stops mosquitoes from biting through your net. Insecticides kill mosquitoes and other insects, while also repelling insects from entering the room.
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Last Reviewed:
October 05, 2016
Last Updated:
December 13, 2017