Dengue (DENG-gey) fever is a mosquito-borne illness that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Mild dengue fever causes a high fever and flu-like symptoms. The severe form of dengue fever, also called dengue hemorrhagic fever, can cause serious bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure (shock) and death.
About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe. Severe dengue can be life-threatening within a few hours and often requires care at a hospital.
Millions of cases of dengue infection occur worldwide each year. Dengue fever is most common in Southeast Asia, the western Pacific islands, Latin America and Africa. But the disease has been spreading to new areas, including local outbreaks in Europe and southern parts of the United States.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
Symptoms, which usually begin four to six days after infection and last for up to 10 days, may include
- Sudden, high fever
- Severe headaches
- Pain behind the eyes
- Severe joint and muscle pain
- Skin rash, which appears two to five days after the onset of fever
- Mild bleeding (such a nose bleed, bleeding gums, or easy bruising)
Treating Dengue Fever
There is no medication or treatment specifically for dengue infection. If you believe you may be infected with dengue, you should use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce your fever, headache, and joint pain. However, aspirin and ibuprofen can cause more bleeding and should be avoided.
If you think you may have dengue fever, you should use pain relievers with acetaminophen and avoid medicines with aspirin, which could worsen bleeding.
Your doctor should 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.
To protect yourself:
- Use mosquito repellents, even indoors.
- When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
- When indoors, use air conditioning if available.
- Make sure window and door screens are secure and free of holes. If sleeping areas are not screened or air conditioned, use mosquito nets.
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