What is Dengue Fever

Outbreaks of dengue fever have become increasingly frequent over the past 25 years.

Dengue fever is a disease spread to humans by mosquitoes and is caused by one of four types of dengue viruses. Dengue fever can cause severe flu-like symptoms and in some cases, may lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever (severe dengue), which can be fatal.

There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that travellers protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to areas where dengue fever may occur.

Where is dengue fever a concern?

Dengue fever occurs (is endemic) in most tropical and subtropical areas of the world. There is a risk of dengue in Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Eastern Mediterranean, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania. A map of the areas where dengue fever occurs is available from the World Health Organization.

Dengue fever occurs mainly in urban and semi-urban areas. Countries affected by the rainy season are expected to have an increase in dengue cases.

In 2014, Malaysia reported more cases when compared to the same time period in 2013. Also in 2014, a dengue outbreak was reported in Fiji.

A locally acquired case of dengue was reported in the Var, a southern region of France in August 2014. This has occurred previously in 2010 and 2013 in two separate regions of southern France.

Japan has reported cases of locally acquired dengue throughout the country although the majority of cases were in people who had visited Yoyogi Park in Tokyo and nearby areas. These are the first locally acquired cases of dengue reported in over 70 years.

In China, an outbreak of dengue was reported in Guangdong province in 2014, where a significant increase in the number of dengue cases was reported when compared to the same time period in 2013.

What are the symptoms?

    • The symptoms most commonly appear three to fourteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.


    • They usually include flu-like symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash.


    • It is common for some people to show no symptoms and most people recover from dengue fever after a few days.


    • In a small percentage of cases, people with dengue fever develop dengue haemorrhagic fever, also known as severe dengue. Warning signs usually occur three to seven days after the first symptoms, and include a decrease in fever, bleeding from nose or gums, fatigue, severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting and difficulty breathing.


    • Children growing up in risk areas are at a higher risk of severe dengue.


  • Severe dengue can lead to shock. With proper medical care, almost all cases will survive.


    • Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.


  • Protect yourself from mosquito bitesExternal link, particularly during peak mosquito biting times around sunrise and sunset.
    If you develop symptoms similar to dengue fever when you are travelling or after you return, see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.

Source: Dengue Fever and What is Dengue

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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