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Dengue

Dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. As many as 400 million people are infected yearly. Dengue is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Dengue has emerged as a worldwide problem only since the 1950s. 

The principal symptoms of dengue fever are high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed, easy bruising). Generally, younger children and those with their first dengue infection have a milder illness than older children and adults.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a more severe form of dengue infection. It can be fatal if unrecognized and not properly treated in a timely manner. DHF is caused by infection with the same viruses that cause dengue fever. With good medical management, mortality due to DHF can be less than 1%.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:

What is dengue?

A:

Dengue (pronounced den' gee) is a disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses (DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, or DENV 4). 

Q2:

How is dengue transmitted?

A:

The dengue viruses are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. In the Western Hemisphere, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the most important transmitter of dengue viruses, although a 2001 outbreak in Hawaii was transmitted by Aedes albopictus

Q3:

What are symptoms of dengue fever?

A:

The principal symptoms of dengue are a high fever that lasts 2-7 days and at least two of the following:

  • Severe headache
  • Severe eye pain (behind eyes)
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle and/or bone pain
  • Rash
  • Mild bleeding manifestation (e.g., nose or gum bleed, petechiae, or easy bruising)
  • Low white cell count

Go IMMEDIATELY to an emergency room or the closest health care provider if any of the following warning signs appear:

  • Severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting
  • Red spots or patches on the skin
  • Bleeding from nose or gums
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black, tarry stools (feces, excrement)
  • Drowsiness or irritability
  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
Q4:

Where are people contracting dengue virus?

A:

Outbreaks of dengue occur primarily in areas where Aedes aegypti (sometimes also Aedes albopictus) mosquitoes live. This includes most tropical urban areas of the world. Dengue viruses may be introduced into areas by travelers who become infected while visiting other areas of the tropics where dengue commonly exists.

Q5:

Who is at risk of being infected?

A:

Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where the virus is found is at risk for infection.

Q6:

What is the treatment for dengue?

A:

There is no specific medication for treatment of a dengue infection. Persons who think they have dengue should use analgesics (pain relievers) with acetaminophen and avoid those containing aspirin. They should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and consult a physician. If they feel worse (e.g., develop vomiting and severe abdominal pain) in the first 24 hours after the fever declines, they should go immediately to the hospital for evaluation.

Q7:

What is the treatment for dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)?

A:

As with dengue fever, there is no specific medication for DHF. It can however be effectively treated by fluid replacement therapy if an early clinical diagnosis is made. DHF management frequently requires hospitalization. 

Q8:

What can I do to prevent dengue infection?

A:

There is no vaccine available against dengue, and there are no specific medications to treat a dengue infection. This makes prevention the most important step, and prevention means avoiding mosquito bites if you live in or travel to an endemic area. 

Q9:

Should we be concerned with dengue in the United States?

A:

Dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, but it is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.

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