dengue fever (dĕng´gē, –gā), acute infectious disease caused by four closely related viruses and transmitted by the bite of the female Aedes mosquito; it is also known as breakbone fever and bone-crusher disease. The disease occurs in both epidemic and sporadic form in warm climates (S United States, South America, the E Mediterranean countries, India, and especially SE Asia and the W Pacific). The classic symptoms, following an incubation period of five to eight days, are high fever, chills, severe headache, pain in the joints, pain behind the eyes, rash, sweating, and prostration, but infected persons may experience milder symptoms. Symptoms subside in two to four days, but after a remission lasting from a few hours to two days there is another rise in temperature, and a generalized rash appears. Convalescence is sometimes prolonged, with weakness and low blood pressure.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a severe form of the disease, can cause hemorrhage, shock, and encephalitis. It occurs when a person who has acquired immunity to one of the viruses that cause dengue fever is infected by a different dengue virus; antibodies to the first dengue infection apparently work to aid the second virus. It is a leading cause of death among children in Southeast Asia and in recent years has become increasingly prevalent in tropical America. There is no specific treatment for dengue fever except good nursing care. Both diseases can be controlled by eradicating the mosquitoes and destroying their breeding places; the mosquito population also has been controlled through the release of sterile male mosquitoes.