What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. Four closely related viruses cause dengue. It is the fastest-growing mosquito-borne viral infection in the world.

Around 2.5% of people affected by severe dengue die from the disease. There is no cure for infection.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash.

Dengue fever can, in some cases, be life-threatening. Severe dengue causes abdominal pain and vomiting, breathing difficulties and a decrease in blood platelets that can lead to internal bleeding.

Where is dengue most common?

Dengue is present in over 150 countries – more than 40% of the world’s population live in at-risk areas. While most reported cases are in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific, dengue also is present in many African countries. The disease is spreading to parts of Europe, the USA and China.

How is dengue spread?

Dengue fever is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes (especially Aedes aegypti) are the primary vectors. After virus incubation, an infected mosquito is capable of spreading the virus for the rest of its life.

These mosquitoes are found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They live in urban habitats and breed mostly in man-made containers (like buckets of water, potted plants etc) .

High fever
Severe headache
Pain behind eyes
Skin rashes
Muscle and joint pains

Dengue can be difficult to recognize because the early symptoms of fever, headache and body aches are not specific to the disease. Dengue may be misdiagnosed as other illnesses: such as influenza, typhoid, zika or malaria. A dengue infection does not protect you from future infection because there are four dengue viruses. In many cases, the second time you get dengue, the symptoms are more severe.

75%of dengue infections are asymptomatic

20%of dengue infections are mild-to-moderate

5%of cases are severe dengue. 500,000 people with severe dengue require hospitalization each year and are at increased risk of death.

There is no specific treatment for dengue or severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates to below 1%. The transition to severe dengue is marked by difficulty breathing, mucosal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, and persistent vomiting.

Supportive care with analgesics, fluid replacement, and bed rest are usually helpful. Acetaminophen may be used to treat fever and relieve other symptoms. Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids should be avoided. Management of severe dengue requires careful attention to fluid management and proactive treatment of hemorrhage.

Early detection and
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Governments, NGOs and international organizations are working to fight dengue. Current efforts focus on prevention, such as using insecticides or reducing potential egg-laying habitats for mosquitoes.

However, more must be done to tackle the growing burden of dengue. A globally coordinated and integrated approach to addressing dengue fever is required. The WHO’s strategy for dengue prevention and control aims to reduce mortality by 50% and reduce morbidity by 25% by 2020.

The WHO strategy focuses on five elements:
  • diagnosis and case management;
  • integrated surveillance and outbreak preparedness;
  • sustainable vector control;
  • future vaccine implementation;
  • research.

To achieve these goals, nations and organizations must work together to implement a cross-border, sustainable approach to controlling the burden of dengue.

The spread of dengue fever can be reduced by targeting the mosquitoes that transmit the disease:
Prevent mosquitoes from accessing egg-laying habitats
Dispose of waste properly and remove artificial man-made habitats
Cover, empty, and clean domestic water storage containers regularly
Apply insecticides to outdoor water storage containers
Use personal household protection such as window screens, long-sleeved clothes, insecticide-treated materials, coils and vaporizers
Apply insecticides during outbreaks as an emergency vector-control measure

Help us map dengue

By telling us about dengue cases near you, you can help us to paint a true picture of dengue fever and predict future outbreaks. Dengue Track can be a valuable resource for scientists, decision-makers and NGOs working in the field.

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