What is dengue?

Dengue is a viral infection. It can be caused by four related viruses. You can get it if an infected mosquito bites you. It is common in warm, wet areas of the world. Although rare, it can be found in some parts of the United States. Outbreaks are more common during rainy seasons.

How does dengue spread?

Dengue spreads to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. It does not spread directly from person to person. However, a pregnant person can pass the infection on to the baby. In rare cases, it can spread through a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or needle stick injury.

What are the symptoms of dengue and severe dengue?

About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For those who do get sick, the infection can be mild or severe. The symptoms of dengue include:

The symptoms usually last two to seven days.

Severe dengue is a serious form of the illness. About 1 in 20 people who get sick with dengue will develop severe dengue. It can cause shock, internal bleeding, and even death. People are more likely to develop severe dengue if they have had dengue before, are pregnant, or are infants.

Watch for signs and symptoms of severe dengue. Warning signs usually begin about 24 - 48 hours after your fever has gone away. If you or your family member have these signs, get immediate medical care:

  • Severe abdominal (belly) pain and tenderness
  • Vomiting at least 3 times in 24 hours
  • Bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Vomiting blood, or blood in the stool
  • Feeling tired, restless, or irritable

How is dengue diagnosed?

There is a blood test which can show if you have been infected with dengue.

What are the treatments for dengue?

There is no specific medicine to treat dengue. Most people will get better after about a week. But if you think you might have dengue:

  • See a health care provider and mention any recent travel.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Take acetaminophen to control fever and relieve pain. But do not take aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Severe dengue often requires care at a hospital.

Can dengue be prevented?

There is a vaccine to prevent dengue. It is approved for children ages 9 - 16 who have previously had dengue and live in areas where dengue is common.

You can also help prevent dengue by avoiding mosquito bites:

  • Wear insect repellent with DEET or another U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. Make sure to follow the instructions for using the repellant.
  • Wear clothes that cover your arms, legs and feet.
  • Close unscreened doors and windows.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Health content updated: January 6, 2023

* This product uses publicly available data from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services; NLM is not responsible for the product and does not endorse or recommend this or any other product.