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Dengue fever - occurs in tropics and subtropics - is a virus spread by mosquito bites, has a sudden onset and can have severe symptoms
Dengue fever is an infection caused by dengue viruses, of which there are four different serotypes known to infect humans.
Serotype refers to groups of microorganisms that are extremely closely related, but can be distinguished by having slightly different antigens (a foreign substance which causes the body to produce antibodies) or causing the body to produce slightly different antibodies.
Dengue fever occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, including northern Australia.
Dengue is a notifiable condition1
In Australia the dengue virus is transmitted by a bite from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Only the female mosquito transmits the dengue virus. This mosquito is a daytime biter, both inside and outside homes, and is most active in the hours after sunrise and before sunset. Other species of mosquito can transmit the virus but are not presently established in Australia.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes breed inside and outside the home in containers holding water and rarely fly more than 200 metres from the breeding site. They do not breed in creeks, swamps, pools or other bodies of water.
The disease has a sudden onset and symptoms may include:
Recovery is sometimes associated with prolonged fatigue and depression.
Repeated episodes of dengue fever may result in excessive bleeding and shock but, with appropriate treatment, are rarely fatal.
Diagnosis of dengue fever is made by clinical presentation and a blood test.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
3 to 14 days, commonly 4 to 7 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
A mosquito becomes infected if it bites an infected person while the fever is present (an average period of about 3 to 5 days).
After biting an infected person it takes 8 to 12 days before the mosquito can infect other people.
The mosquito remains infectious for life.
Dengue fever is not directly spread from person-to-person.
There is no specific antiviral treatment available.
General recommendations include controlling fever and pain with paracetamol rather than aspirin (aspirin may promote bleeding), and increasing fluid intake. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.