Dengue Fever - Overview
Symptoms of dengue infection include high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea and rash. If a rash develops, it appears 3 to 5 days after the fever, usually starting on the torso, then spreading to the arms, legs and face.
Air travel increases the spread of dengue viruses between populated areas in the tropics. According to the CDC, cases of dengue are confirmed every year in travelers returning to the United States following visits to tropical and subtropical areas.
The CDC also says that the rise of dengue fever as a major public health problem has been most dramatic in the western hemisphere, and that there is a small but growing risk for dengue outbreaks in the continental United States.
For more details on dengue fever, see the Traveler’s Health section of the CDC website.
Dengue Fever - Frequently Asked Questions
Dengue fever and DHF have become the most common arboviral (virus transmitted by insects) in the world. The virus is transmitted by day-biting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that prefer to feed on people. There are four different strains of virus, and infection with one virus confers immunity against that strain, but not others—so multiple infections are possible in one’s lifetime. Infection with the dengue virus causes a range of symptoms from sub-clinical infection and nonspecific flu-like symptoms to severe and fatal DHF.
Aedes aegypti mosquito
Dengue fever has an incubation period of 3 to 14 days, after which the onset of symptoms occurs: high fever, severe frontal headache, as well as joint and muscle pain. Some patients experience a rash that spreads from the torso to the arms, legs and face. About 1% of cases turn into more serious DHF. Patients with DHF can develop hemorrhagic symptoms such as bruising, bleeding from the nose and mouth, circulatory failure, shock and death. The case fatality rate for DHF is about 5%.
Dengue is endemic in most countries of the South Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean, as well as tropical regions of the Americas and Africa. There have been occasional dengue cases in the United States associated with outbreaks in Mexico; a 2001 outbreak in Hawaii was likely imported by travelers from the South Pacific.
Because there is no specific treatment available for dengue, you should take measures to prevent mosquito bites. Insect Shield® Repellent Apparel and Gear is proven and registered to repel mosquitoes, so it is a good option to help protect yourself from dengue. We’ve received positive feedback from travelers who wear our bug repellent products in tropical regions.
Various predictions have been made regarding changes in distribution of dengue with current models of climate change. There is a lot of agreement among experts that if warming trends continue, diseases like dengue will become more common in higher latitudes.
Because it is a viral disease, antibiotics cannot be used to treat dengue infections. Acetaminophen can be used to treat pain and fever, but people with dengue should avoid aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications. Intravenous fluids can be given if necessary.
Is there a vaccine available for dengue?
Dengvaxia is a dengue vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasteur. The CDC says this about Dengvaxia: It "is safe and effective in reducing dengue-related hospitalizations and severe dengue among persons who have had dengue infection in the past. Previous natural infection is important because Dengvaxia is associated with an increased risk for severe dengue in those who experience their first natural infection (i.e., primary infection) after vaccination."