Dengue fever is a viral infection.


An infected mosquito passes the virus to you through a bite on your skin. The virus enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body.

Mosquito Bite
Mosquito bite

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Risk Factors

Your risk may be higher if you travel to:

  • Africa
  • India
  • Southeast Asia and China
  • Middle East
  • The Caribbean
  • Central and South America
  • Australia
  • Areas in central and south Pacific
  • Parts of Florida and Texas


Children and infants may have not have symptoms or may have flu-like symptoms. Adults may develop a more serious, life-threatening illness. The main symptoms are high fever and at least 2 from the list below:

  • Headache
  • Eye pain
  • Chills and fever
  • Muscle or bone pain
  • Red or purple spots in skin
  • Minor bleeding in the nose or gums
  • Easy bruising
  • Nausea or vomiting

The fever goes away within 3-7 days after symptoms start. This is when the warning signs of a serious infection may appear. These may include:

  • Severe belly pain
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose that's hard to stop
  • Black tarry stools or blood in the urine
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness

A serious infection can lead to shock and organ failure.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. You will also have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests


The goal of care is to ease symptoms while the body fights the virus. Care includes:

  • Rest
  • Replacing fluids
  • Acetaminophen for pain and fever

Talk to your doctor about the medicines you take. You should taking avoid aspirin and similar medicines because it may cause bleeding.


If you travel to areas where dengue fever is common:

  • Stay in places with screens or air conditioning.
  • Cover your skin with long clothes, socks, and shoes.
  • Use bug sprays that contain DEET.
  • Use mosquito netting treated with bug spray.
  • Keep in mind mosquitoes are more active during early morning, late afternoon, and early evening.
  • Tip out standing water in buckets, flower pots, or other containers. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

IDSA—Infectious Diseases Society of America


Public Health Agency of Canada

Travel Health and Safety


Dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2018.

Dengue. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated May 10, 2018. Accessed May 11, 2018.

Dengue. World Health Organization (WHO) website. Available at: Accessed May 11, 2018.

Dengue fever. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: Updated May 12, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2018.

Mosquito avoidance. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2018.

Reimer LJ, Thomsen EK, Tisch DJ, et al. Insecticidal bed nets and filariasis transmission in Papua New Guinea. N Eng J Med. 2013;369(8):745-753.

Last reviewed May 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 5/11/2018