What’s Dengue fever? Symptoms, causes, & Treatment

Last updated on April 21st, 2023 at 05:46 pm

5 minutes read.   

Mosquito sucking blood on human skin


In this article:

What’s dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a viral disease caused by four dengue viruses found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers dengue as a major global public health challenge in the tropic and subtropic nations. (1)

 Signs and symptoms of dengue fever range from high fever and flu. The severe form of dengue fever, also called dengue hemorrhagic fever, can cause serious bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure (shock), and death. (2)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 400 million cases of dengue infection occur worldwide each year. (3, 4 )

The viruses that cause dengue fever are related to those that cause yellow fever and West Nile virus infection.

Dengue fever is most common in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Mexico, the

Caribbean, Pacific Islands, India, South America, Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, and northern parts of Australia. But the disease has been spreading to new areas, including local outbreaks in Europe.

Little or no cases of dengue fever are found in Nigeria.

Very few cases occur in the United States. Most diagnosed cases occur in people who contracted the virus while traveling abroad. However, the risk of infection is increasing for residents of Hawaii, Florida, and Texas near the Mexican border. (5, 6)

India has recorded 63,280 dengue cases as of September 30, 2022, according to the latest data from the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC). (7, 8, 9 )

Symptoms of dengue fever

Symptoms of dengue fever begin 4- 10 days after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the dengue virus. (10, 1)

Common signs and Symptoms which generally last two seven days include:

  • Very high fever (temperatures can reach as high as 105 °F)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Severe muscle and joint pain
  • Severe headaches and pain behind the eyes
  • skin rash (appearing between 2 and 5 days after the initial fever
  • Easy bruising or mild bleeding (bleeding gums or nose bleed)

Mild symptoms of the same can be mistaken for viral infection or flu. It has to be treated properly because serious symptoms can lead to more severe dengue Symptoms.

Severe dengue fever symptoms include:

  • shock syndrome (DSS) which can cause dengue hemorrhagic fever- damage to lymph and blood vessels, liver enlargement, circulatory system failure, and heavy bleeding. (11, 12 )
  • belly pain and tenderness
  • mild to severe vomiting (three times in 24 hours)
  • mild bleeding from the nose or gums
  • vomiting blood or blood in stool
  • fatigue, restlessness, or irritability
  • and death.

Dengue fever does not spread from one person to another but infected mosquitoes are the root cause of the widespread. This happens when an infected human is bitten by a mosquito and that infected mosquito bites another human being.

What are the Causes of dengue fever?

Dengue fever is transmitted via the bite of a mosquito harboring the dengue virus. Person-to-person transmission doesn’t occur. However, a pregnant person with dengue can pass the disease to their child. (13, 14)

The mosquito Aedesaegypti which spread the virus flourishes during the rainy seasons in objects that can contain stagnant water like tires, plastic bags, water-filled pots, etc

Can dengue be transmitted from person to person?

No. Dengue fever can only spread through a bite of a mosquito carrying the virus or mosquitoes that have bitten someone already infected by the virus and then bite another person.

How is dengue fever diagnosed?

Doctors use blood tests to check for antibodies to the dengue viruses or the presence of infection. A doctor may use a virological test or a serological test. (11, 12)

Virological test

This test directly tests for elements of the virus. This type of testing often requires specialized equipment and a staff that’s technically trained, so this type of testing may not be available in all medical facilities.

Serological test

This test detects antibodies in the blood to confirm a current or recent infection.

If you experience dengue symptoms after traveling outside the country, you should see a healthcare professional to check whether you have the virus.

Related: Home Remedy for Dengue Fever


How can I treat dengue fever?

There’s no medication or treatment specifically made for dengue infection.

If you believe you may have dengue, you should use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce your fever, headache, and joint pain. However, you should avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, as they can cause more bleeding. (15 )

Your doctor will perform a medical exam, and you should rest and drink plenty of fluids. If you feel worse after the first 24 hours of illness once your fever has gone down you should be taken to the hospital as soon as possible to check for complications.

However, there are some natural herbs that have been used to treat dengue fever that may find in your area.


Severe dengue fever can cause internal bleeding and organ damage. Blood pressure can drop to dangerous levels, causing shock. In some cases, severe dengue fever can lead to death.

Women who get dengue fever during pregnancy may be able to spread the virus to the baby during childbirth. In addition, babies of women who get dengue fever during pregnancy have a higher risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight, or fetal distress. (11, 12)


Researchers are still working on dengue fever vaccines.

However, in areas of the world where dengue fever is common, one dengue fever vaccine (Dengvaxia) is approved for people ages 9 to 45 who have already had dengue fever at least once. The vaccine is given in three doses over the course of 12 months.(16)

Dengvaxia, developed by Sanofi Pasteur, is a live attenuated tetravalent vaccine developed using a chimeric approach. Another common name for this vaccine is CYD-TDV. To date, the vaccine has been licensed for use in more than 20 countries worldwide. (17)

The vaccine is approved only for people who have a documented history of dengue fever or who have had a blood test that shows previous infection with one of the dengue viruses called seropositivity.

In people who have not had dengue fever in the past (seronegative), receiving the vaccine appears to increase the risk of severe dengue fever and hospitalization due to dengue fever in the future.

Dengvaxia is not available for travelers or for people who live in the continental United States. But in 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for people ages 9 to 16 who have had dengue fever in the past and who live in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands where dengue fever is common. (18, 19)

What are the Best ways to prevent dengue fever?

The World Health Organization stresses that the vaccine is not an effective tool on its own to reduce dengue fever in areas where the illness is common.

Preventing mosquito bites and controlling the mosquito population are still the main methods for preventing the spread of dengue fever. (20, 21)

Since there is no guaranteed cure for dengue fever, the best measures to prevent dengue fever is to precautions like using mosquito repellents and creams, ensuring your immediate surroundings are devoid of water-stagnating objects, wearing full-sleeved clothes, etc.

If any member of your family suffers from dengue fever, use extra precautionary measures to ensure that other members of your family are protected from getting bitten by mosquitoes.

In case, you get a fever after traveling to a tropical area, consult your doctor/physician so that they can determine if you have a fever or any other condition.  

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