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What is Dengue Disease?

Dengue fever is a mosquito virus affecting more than 390 million people each year. While the disease is generally mild and it also can be deadly. Recent research shows dengue is between 100 and 800 years old. It likely originated in Africa or Southeast Asia and was then carried to other parts of the world through travel and trade. In recent years, dengue has spread to over 100 countries. Now, travelers to popular destinations like Brazil and India could contract the disease. The virus is also known as ‘break bone fever’ due to its symptoms.


Many people, especially children and teens, may experience no signs or symptoms during a mild case of dengue fever. When symptoms do occur, they usually begin four to seven days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Dengue fever causes a high fever — 104 F degrees — and at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Muscle, bone and joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash


Most people recover within a week or so. In some cases, symptoms worsen and can become life-threatening. Blood vessels often become damaged and leaky. And the number of clot-forming cells (platelets) in your bloodstream drops. This can cause a severe form of dengue fever, called dengue hemorrhagic fever, severe dengue or dengue shock syndrome.

Signs and symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever or severe dengue — a life-threatening emergency — include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Bleeding from your gums or nose
  • Blood in your urine, stools or vomit
  • Bleeding under the skin, which might look like bruising
  • Difficult or rapid breathing
  • Cold or clammy skin (shock)
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or restlessness

How Does Dengue Spread?

Like its cousin’s chikungunya and Zika, the dengue virus spreads through mosquito bites. Dengue often spreads when:

  • A mosquito (usually of the Aedes species) bites an infected human.
  • This mosquito is now infected with dengue fever. Mosquitoes are only carriers of the disease, it does not affect them as it does humans.
  • The mosquito bites a human. That human is now infected with the virus. He or she will then infect any unaffected mosquitoes that bite them.


According to the CDC, about 75 percent of all dengue infections show no symptoms. Around 20 percent of dengue symptoms are mild. But, five percent will develop severe, life-threatening symptoms.

Be sure to use repellents and nettings to avoid mosquito bites.

How Is Dengue Treated?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for dengue. Supportive care is used to help with symptoms. Usually, analgesics, hydration and bed rest are enough to help patients through their infection. If you suspect dengue during or after you trip, be sure to seek medical attention.

Because of the lack of a true dengue treatment, prevention is key while in regions with the disease.

Is There A Dengue Vaccine?

Looking For the Dengue Vaccine?

The Future of Dengue Prevention

Visit our dengue vaccine page to learn more.

One dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia has been approved for use in some countries. But, it is not yet available in the United States. This dengue vaccine has proven effective in tests conducted in Asia and Latin America.

Other dengue vaccines are in various trial stages throughout the world. This includes DENVax (Phase II trials), TDENV PIV (Phase II study) and V180 (Phase I stage). There is no timetable for when, or if, these vaccines will be available in the United States.

As of now, the best form of dengue protection for U.S. travelers is through preventing mosquito bites.

How Can I Prevent Dengue Fever?

As a mosquito-borne disease, preventing dengue is as simple as preventing mosquito bites. There is no approved dengue vaccine in the United States.

Many health organizations suggest the following to protect yourself from dengue:

  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • Treat clothes with repellents like permethrin.
  • Use EPA-registered mosquito repellent like DEET.
  • Consider using mosquito netting if you will be in an areas with many mosquitoes.
  • Make sure windows and doors screens are closed to avoid allowing mosquitoes into inclosed spaces.
  • Avoid areas with standing water. Especially at times of high mosquito activity like dawn and dusk.

Paspsort Health locations carry kits specifically designed to help prevent mosquito bites and mosquito-borne disease. Be sure to take one with you on your next trip.

For more information on mosquito bite prevention methods and what you can do to protect yourself and your family, speak with a travel health specialist by calling 403-453-9194 or booking online today.

Where Does Dengue Fever Occur?

Before 1970, dengue outbreaks were not common. Only nine countries had experience severe dengue epidemics. Since then, the disease has spread almost globally. An estimated 3.9 billion people are at risk of dengue infection in 128 countries. The countries and regions most affected by dengue fever include:

Southeast Asia – BurmaIndiaIndonesia

Western Pacific – CambodiaMalaysiaPhilippines

South Cone – ArgentinaBrazil (This region accounts for 64.6% of all dengue cases in the Americas.)

Andean Mountains – ColombiaEcuadorPeru

Central America – Costa RicaHonduras

Caribbean Countries – BarbadosCubaDominican Republic

North America – Mexico, Southern United States

Africa – Various portions of the continent have different levels of infections. But, it is generally less than Asia or the Americas.

Eastern Mediterranean – EgyptIsraelLibya

If you are planning a trip to any of these regions, be sure to speak with a travel health specialist about your itinerary. Health organizations recommend visiting a travel clinic like Passport Health, before your trip. To find out more call 403-453-9194 or book online now.

By Blue Whales Travel Group