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What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever

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.

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
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash, which appears two to five days after the onset of fever
  • Mild bleeding (such a nose bleed, bleeding gums, or easy bruising)

Sometimes, symptoms are mild and can be mistaken for those of the flu or another viral infection. Younger children and people who have never had the infection before tend to have milder cases than older children and adults. However, serious problems can develop. These include dengue hemorrhagic fever, a rare complication characterized by high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system. The symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock, and death. This is called dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

People with weakened immune systems as well as those with a second or subsequent dengue infection are believed to be at greater risk for developing dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Causes of Dengue fever

Dengue fever is caused by any one of four types of dengue viruses. You can’t get dengue fever from being around an infected person. Instead, dengue fever is spread through mosquito bites.

The two types of mosquitoes that most often spread the dengue viruses are common both in and around human lodgings. When a mosquito bites a person infected with a dengue virus, the virus enters the mosquito. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another person, the virus enters that person’s bloodstream and causes an infection.

After you’ve recovered from dengue fever, you have long-term immunity to the type of virus that infected you — but not to the other three dengue fever virus types. This means you can be infected again in the future by one of the other three virus types. Your risk of developing severe dengue fever increases if you get dengue fever a second, third, or fourth time.

Diagnosing Dengue Fever

 Doctors can diagnose dengue infection with a blood test to check for the virus or antibodies to it. If you become sick after traveling to a tropical area, let your doctor know. This will allow your doctor to evaluate the possibility that your symptoms were caused by a dengue infection.

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