Dengue fever is a contagious disease found primarily in tropical regions and transmitted to people via a mosquito borne virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 50 and 100 million people are infected worldwide with dengue fever and the more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever each year. Approximately 100 to 200 incidents of dengue fever are brought into the United States annually.
Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is caused by one of four related viruses. The fever has a rapid onset and when mild is sometimes mistaken for the flu. The infection can only be transmitted through mosquitoes or contact with the blood of an actively ill individual. More serious forms of dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, do occur in a small number of dengue fever cases.
The primary symptoms of dengue fever include a high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, backache, joint pain and a rash. The rash associated with this fever creates small bright red spots on the lower limbs and chest. The fever usually lasts from six to seven days in most cases of dengue fever. In dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome the fever is typically higher the symptoms more severe and bleeding from the mucus membranes occurs.
Dengue fever is most often diagnosed based on the clinical symptoms present. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is diagnosed when a number of clinical and laboratory criteria are met including the presence of spontaneous bruising, and an elevated hematocrit level. A diagnosis of dengue shock syndrome is given when the criteria of dengue hemorrhagic fever are present as well as the clinical symptoms of a weak, rapid pulse and cold clammy skin.
Dengue fever is most prevalent in tropical regions, particularly in the urban areas. The fever exists in only tropical areas as these areas are home to the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the dengue virus. Countries impacted by dengue fever include areas of Central and South America, Africa and Asia.
There is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever and generally home care sufficient until the virus has run its course. Dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome are often treated with fluid and fever management in a hospital setting. The only way to prevent dengue fever is to stay out of those countries that have the fever. When visiting tropical locations travelers are advised to use protective measures to prevent mosquito bites.