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Dengue fever

Dengue fever is a virus-caused disease that is spread by mosquitoes.


Dengue fever is caused by 1 of 4 different but related viruses. It is spread by the bite of mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which is found in tropic and subtropic regions. This area includes parts of:

  • Indonesian archipelago into northeastern Australia
  • South and Central America
  • Southeast Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Some parts of the Caribbean

Dengue fever is very rare in the United States. Dengue fever should not be confused with dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is a separate disease caused by the same type of virus, but has much more severe symptoms.


Dengue fever begins with a sudden high fever, often as high as 105°F (40.5°C), 4 to 7 days after the infection.

A flat, red rash may appear over most of the body 2 to 5 days after the fever starts. A second rash, which looks like the measles, appears later in the disease. Infected people may have increased skin sensitivity and are very uncomfortable.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache (especially behind the eyes)
  • Joint aches (often severe)
  • Muscle aches (often severe)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal stuffiness

Exams and Tests

Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:


There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Fluids are given if there are signs of dehydration. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is used to treat a high fever.

Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). They may increase bleeding problems.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition generally lasts a week or more. Although uncomfortable, dengue fever is not deadly. People with the condition should fully recover.

Possible Complications

Untreated, dengue fever may cause the following health problems:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have traveled in an area where dengue fever is known to occur and you have symptoms of the disease.


Clothing, mosquito repellent, and netting can help reduce the risk of mosquito bites that can spread dengue fever and other infections. Limit outdoor activity during mosquito season, especially when they are most active, at dawn and dusk.

Alternative Names

O'nyong-nyong fever; Dengue-like disease; Breakbone fever


Thomas SJ, Endy TP, Rothman AL, Barrett AD. Flaviviruses (dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, Kyasanur forest disease, Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever, Zika). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 155.

Yacoub S, Garrar J. Dengue. In: Farrar J, Hotez PJ, Junghanss T, Kang G, Lalloo D, White NJ, eds. Manson's Tropical Diseases. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 15.

Review Date 9/10/2015

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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