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Health Information Center

Dengue Fever

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Dengue Fever

(Break Bone Fever)


Dengue fever is a viral infection. It can range from mild to severe. In some people, it can be deadly.


An infected mosquito passes the virus through a bite in the skin. The virus enters the blood and spreads throughout the body.

Mosquito Bite.

Mosquito bitehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=75997599si55551244.jpgsi55551244.jpgNULLjpgsi55551244.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55551244.jpgNULL72NULL2008-12-10261400Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

The risk for dengue fever is higher in people who live in or travel to:

  • Southeast Asia
  • Western Pacific
  • Americas
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Africa


Some people do not have symptoms. Others may have a mild, flu like illness. Symptoms may be:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Eye pain
  • Muscle or bone pain
  • Red or purple spots on the skin
  • Minor bleeding in the nose or gums
  • Nausea or vomiting

Serious signs are:

  • Severe belly pain
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose that is hard to stop
  • Black tarry stools (poop) or blood in the urine (pee)
  • Tiredness or restlessness
  • Problems breathing
  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin
  • Feeling faint

A serious infection can lead to shock and organ failure.


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and travel history. A physical exam and blood tests may be done.

A tourniquet test may be done to check for bleeding under the skin. This test uses an inflated blood pressure cuff on the upper arm for 5 minutes.


Treatment depends on how severe the illness is. Some people will need hospital care. Treatment may include rest and replacing fluids by mouth or IV.

A blood transfusion may be given if there is severe bleeding.


The risk of Dengue fever may be lowered with mosquito control measures. A dengue vaccine is available in some countries.





  • Dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/dengue.
  • Dengue. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/dengue.
  • Dengue fever. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever.
  • Karesh J, Mazzoli R, et al. Ocular manifestations of mosquito-transmitted diseases. Military Medicine, 2018; 183 (S): 450-458.
  • Mosquito avoidance. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/mosquito-avoidance.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.