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Travel health

06 June 2019

Dengue Fever: The virus, its transmission and its prevention

You want to stay in Thailand, Cuba, Mexico or other countries in Latin America, tropical or subtropical regions? Travel Health Tips is your reference tool to find all the useful tips to prepare for a trip. Check out our online tool for travel health assistance.


Is a vaccine available for Dengue? Not in Canada


Because of the multiple existing serotypes, Manufacturing of a vaccine against dengue is complicated. In some parts of the world, studies to develop a second generation recombinant vaccine are underway. Nevertheless, there is currently no effective validated vaccine clinically available. It is estimated that it will take about 5 to 10 years to have an effective vaccine.


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What is dengue?

Dengue fever is a tropical disease caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The transmitted disease can cause fever, headaches, rashes and pain throughout the body. But sometimes, dengue fever can turn into a much more serious disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever.

The dengue virus is divided into 4 serotypes: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4. In those who have been infected, healing results in lifetime immunity against the serotype causing the infection, but not against the other three. An individual can be infected with each of the four serotypes of dengue during his lifetime. Most cases of dengue fever are mild and disappear on their own in about a week.

Dengue fever is rare in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in Florida and Texas, near the Mexican border.

But, if you plan to travel abroad, especially in tropical countries, it is wise to protect yourself from dengue fever. Putting an insect repellent, covering areas where you sleep and avoiding being out at dusk and dawn (when mosquitoes are more active) can help reduce the risk of getting this infection.

Virus Dengue

The risks of dengue haemorrhagic fever

Progression to a more severe form is rare (about 1% of cases) and often affects children under 15 years of age.

Symptoms are increased, the overall condition is altered, digestive disorders are constant. Blood spots on the skin (purpura, bruising) and diffuse bleeding (nose, gums, bloody vomiting, black stools) characterize the clinical picture.

The prognosis is often severe and can sometimes cause death.


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Dengue Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear four to seven days (and may last from 3 to 14 days) after the bite of an infected mosquito and may include the symptoms below.


Classic Dengue Symptom


  • Flu syndrome with high fever
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hypotension
  • Anorexia
  • Headache, pain behind the eyes
  • Rashes
  • Muscular pains (Myalgia) and diffuse body aches (Arthralgia)
  • The patient prefers not to walk and, if he does, he has a stiff and affected gait, often on tiptoe, hence the name of the disease (dengue means in Spanish "affected way")
  • The fever drops after 2 to 4 days with perspiration and feeling of well-being.

Symptom Dengue Hemorrhagic

Dengue haemorrhagic fever causes more severe symptoms and can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child have one or more of the following symptoms:


  • Bleeding nose
  • Vomiting that does not disappear
  • Strong abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bleeding in the gums
  • Bleeding under the skin, which looks like bruises.
  • Blood in the urine or stool.
  • Cold and moist skin
  • Agitation

In cases of severe dengue fever, the assistance provided by experienced doctors and nurses in the effects and course of the disease can save lives and reduce mortality rates from over 20% to less than 1% . It is essential to maintain the volume of body fluids.

Caution: avoid aspirin which aggravates the bleeding tendency and corticosteroids are ineffective.


Insecticide vaccin dengue

Regions where Dengue fever is prevalent are:

  • Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
  • Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, the incidence and severity of the disease is increasing rapidly.

The risk of infection is high in popular travel destinations such as Indonesia (Bali), Vietnam, Thailand and India, however, dengue occurs in a wide range of countries.


Travelers with fever within two weeks of returning from an endemic area (Latin America, tropical and subtropical regions) should seek medical attention as soon as possible to exclude malaria, dengue fever or other infections associated with their journey to endemic areas.


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When traveling, regardless of your destination or physical condition, a consultation with a trained health professional is expected at least 6 weeks before your departure.

Christine Dumontet RN 

President Dumontet CSV and Founder of Travel Health Assist