URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/dengue-fever-test/

Dengue Fever Test

What is a dengue fever test?

Dengue fever is a viral infection spread by mosquitos. The virus can't be spread from person to person. Mosquitos that carry the dengue virus are most common in areas of the world with tropical and subtropical climates. These include parts of:

  • South and Central America
  • Southeast Asia
  • The South Pacific
  • Africa
  • The Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Dengue fever is rare in the U.S. mainland, but cases have been reported in Florida and in Texas near the Mexican border.

Most people who get dengue fever have no symptoms, or mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and headache. These symptoms usually last for a week or so. But sometimes dengue fever can develop into a much more serious disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF).

DHF causes life-threatening symptoms, including blood vessel damage and shock. Shock is a condition that can lead to a severe drop in blood pressure and organ failure.

DHF mostly affects children under 10. It can also develop if you have dengue fever and get infected a second time before you have fully recovered from your first infection.

A dengue fever test looks for signs of the dengue virus in the blood.

While there is no medicine that can cure dengue fever or DHF, other treatments can help relieve symptoms. This can make you more comfortable if you have dengue fever. It can be lifesaving if you have DHF.

Other names: dengue virus antibody, dengue virus by PCR

What is it used for?

A dengue fever test is used to find out if you have been infected with the dengue virus. It is mostly used for people who have symptoms of illness and have recently traveled to an area where dengue infections are common.

Why do I need a dengue fever test?

You may need this test if you live or have recently traveled to an area where dengue is common, and you have symptoms of dengue fever. Symptoms usually show up four to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, and may include:

  • Sudden high fever (104°F or higher)
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash on the face
  • Severe headache and/or pain behind the eyes
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) causes more severe symptoms and can be life-threatening. If you've had symptoms of dengue fever and/or have been in an area that has dengue, you may be at risk for DHF. Seek medical help immediately if you or your child has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting that doesn't go away
  • Bleeding gums
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bleeding under the skin, which may look like bruises
  • Blood in urine and/or stools
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Restlessness

What happens during a dengue fever test?

Your health care provider will probably ask about your symptoms and for details on your recent travels. If an infection is suspected, you will get a blood test to check for the dengue virus.

During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparations for a dengue fever test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

A positive result means you probably have been infected with the dengue virus. A negative result can mean you aren't infected or you were tested too soon for the virus to show up in testing. If you think you were exposed to the dengue virus and/or have symptoms of infection, talk to your health care provider about whether you need to be retested.

If your results were positive, talk to your health care provider about how to best treat your dengue fever infection. There are no medicines for dengue fever, but your provider will probably recommend that you get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. You may also be advised to take over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen (Tylenol), to help ease body aches and reduce fever. Aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are not recommended, as they may worsen bleeding.

If your results are positive and you have symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever, you may need to go to the hospital for treatment. Treatment may include getting fluids through an intravenous (IV) line, a blood transfusion if you've lost a lot of blood, and careful monitoring of blood pressure.

Is there anything else I need to know about a dengue fever test?

If you will be traveling to an area where dengue is common, you can take steps to reduce your risk of getting infected with the dengue virus. These include:

  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET on your skin and clothing.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use screens on windows and doors.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/resources/denguedhf-information-for-health-care-practitioners_2009.pdf
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dengue: Frequently Asked Questions [updated 2012 Sep 27; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/faqfacts/index.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dengue: Travel and Dengue Outbreaks [updated 2012 Jun 26; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/travelOutbreaks/index.html
  4. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Dengue Fever Testing [updated 2018 Sep 27; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/dengue-fever-testing
  5. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.; American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Shock [updated 2017 Nov 27; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/glossary/shock
  6. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2018. Dengue Fever: Diagnosis and treatment; 2018 Feb 16 [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353084
  7. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2018. Dengue Fever: Symptoms and causes; 2018 Feb 16 [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20353078
  8. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2018. Test ID: DENGM: Dengue Virus Antibody, IgG and IgM, Serum: Clinical and Interpretive [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/83865
  9. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2018. Test ID: DENGM: Dengue Virus Antibody, IgG and IgM, Serum: Overview [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/83865
  10. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2018. Dengue [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/arboviruses,-arenaviruses,-and-filoviruses/dengue
  11. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  12. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Health; c2018. Dengue fever: Overview [updated 2018 Dec 2; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/dengue-fever
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2018. Health Encyclopedia: Dengue Fever [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P01425
  14. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Health Information: Dengue Fever: Topic Overview [updated 2017 Nov 18; cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/special/dengue-fever/abk8893.html
  15. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; c2018. Dengue and severe dengue; 2018 Sep 13 [cited 2018 Dec 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.