Dengue Fever is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a virus. The disease is mainly tropical in origin but occasionally residents or visitors from other countries may arrive in this country with dengue fever. Although cases originating in the United States are virtually unknown, epidemic levels have recently been reported in parts of the Caribbean and Central America. Most United States cases occur in travelers returning from abroad, but the dengue risk is increasing for persons living along the Texas-Mexico border and in other parts of the southern United States.
Dengue fever is a flu-like illness. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a severe, and potentially fatal, complication of dengue. Both versions can be caused by a number of viruses in the dengue family of viruses. Infection with one virus does not protect a person against infection with another. Dengue fever is spread by the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Anyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito can get dengue fever.
Dengue fever usually starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, and muscle and joint pain. The severity of the joint pain has given dengue the name “breakbone fever”. Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are also common. A rash usually appears three to four days after the start of the fever. The illness can last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take as long as a month. Older children and adults are usually sicker than young children.
Most dengue infections result in a relatively mild illness, but some can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever. With dengue hemorrhagic fever, the blood vessels start to leak and cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, and gums. Bruising can be a sign of bleeding inside the body. Without prompt treatment, the blood vessels can collapse, causing shock (dengue shock syndrome). Dengue hemorrhagic fever is fatal in about 5 percent of cases, mostly among children and young adults.
There is no specific treatment for dengue. Persons with dengue fever should rest and drink plenty of fluids. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is treated by replacing lost fluids. Some patients need transfusions to control bleeding. General mosquito prevention tips include:
- Use mosquito repellents on skin and clothing.
- When outdoors during times that mosquitoes are biting, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
- When indoors, stay in air-conditioned or screened areas. Use bednets if sleeping areas are not screened or air-conditioned.
- If you have symptoms of dengue, report your travel history to your doctor.
There is no vaccine to prevent dengue. The most effective prevention is the avoidance of mosquito bites when traveling through areas where dengue occurs, such as tropical areas or along the US-Mexico border.
International travelers’ risk of dengue infection can vary dependent on transmission in the area as well as exposure to mosquitoes. You are at greater risk when an outbreak or epidemic is occurring. When you’re planning for international travel, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers’ Health page at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ to get the latest information regarding health related travel notices and recommendations for planning your trip.
For more detailed disease prevention, visit Mosquitoborne Disease Prevention Tips.
Dengue Fact Sheets and Information:
Dengue Fact Sheet (53k.pdf)
External Dengue Resources:
Dengue Fever (CDC)
Dengue Fever Traveler's Health (CDC)