Dengue fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. It is an acute illness of sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with symptoms such as headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), and rash. The presence of fever, itchy rash, and headache (the “dengue triad”) is characteristic of dengue. Other signs of dengue fever include bleeding gums, severe pain behind the eyes, and red palms and soles.

Dengue (pronounced DENgee) fever is a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses. These viruses are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever.

An estimated 390 million dengue infections occur worldwide each year, with about 96 million resulting in illness. Most cases occur in tropical areas of the world, with the greatest risk occurring in:

  • The Indian subcontinent
  • Southeast Asia
  • Southern China
  • Taiwan
  • The Pacific Islands
  • The Caribbean (except Cuba and the Cayman Islands)
  • Mexico
  • Africa
  • Central and South America (except Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina)

Most cases in the United States occur in people who contracted the infection while traveling abroad. But the risk is increasing for people living along the Texas-Mexico border and in other parts of the southern United States. In 2009, an outbreak of dengue fever was identified in Key West, Fla.

Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood. It can’t be spread directly from one person to another person.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever :

Symptoms, which usually begin four to six days after infection and last for up to 10 days, may include :

  • Sudden, high fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Severe joint and muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash, which appears two to five days after the onset of fever
  • Mild bleeding (such a nose bleed, bleeding gums, or easy bruising)

What tests do health-care providers use to diagnose dengue fever?

The diagnosis of dengue fever is usually made when a patient exhibits the typical clinical symptoms of headache, high fever, eye pain, severe muscle aches, and petechial rash and has a history of being in an area where dengue fever is endemic. Dengue fever can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with those of many other viral illnesses, such as West Nile virus and chikungunya fever.

To protect yourself :

  • Stay away from heavily populated residential areas, if possible.
  • Use mosquito repellents, even indoors.
  • When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
  • When indoors, use air conditioning if available.
  • Make sure window and door screens are secure and free of holes. If sleeping areas are not screened or air conditioned, use mosquito nets.
  • If you have symptoms of dengue, speak to your doctor.

If someone in your home gets dengue fever, be especially vigilant about efforts to protect yourself and other family members from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that bite the infected family member could spread the infection to others in your home.

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