Dengue is a mosquito-borne flavivirus found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, mostly in urban and semi-urban settings. Day-biting Aedes mosquitos spread disease. It is the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease and is now endemic in over 100 countries, resulting in 40% of the world’s population living in an area at risk for dengue. It is caused by one of four distinct serotypes (dengue 1-4). While the first infection with one of the four dengue serotypes is typically non-severe or asymptomatic, individuals who are subsequently exposed in later years to one of the other serotypes are more likely to develop severe dengue. Non-severe dengue illness often presents as flu-like illness, with symptoms included high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, or rash. Severe dengue, including dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, is characterized by severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, and blood in vomit, and may be fatal due to plasma leakage, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment. Although there is no specific treatment for dengue, case fatality rates can be below 1% with proper case management. In its absence, the case fatality rate can be has high at 20% in patients with severe dengue.
There are currently no licensed dengue vaccines available. Several vaccine candidates are in clinical or pre-clinical development. The most advanced candidate, a chimeric tetravalent vaccine based on the yellow fever 17d backbone, is currently under evaluation in Phase III clinical trials.
In the absence of a licensed vaccine, WHO recommends prevention of dengue through vector control methods such as mosquito habitat removal and use of insecticides. Integrated vector control, surveillance, case management, and future vaccines are the technical elements of WHO’s dengue control strategy.
The development of a dengue vaccine is a high priority and WHO supports this effort through technical guidance and advice.
WHO position papers
There is currently no WHO position paper for dengue. A position paper will be available once a vaccine against dengue has been licensed.
There are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines against dengue.
- The global distribution and burden of dengue
- Best practices in dengue surveillance: a report from the Asia-Pacific and Americas Dengue Prevention Boards
- WHO fact sheet on dengue
- WHO vaccine research resources
- WHO global strategy for dengue prevention and control, 2012–2020
- WHO Dengue Guidelines for Diagnosis, Prevention, and Control
- WHO Handbook for clinical management of dengue
- Pan American Health Organization (PAHO regional office)
- Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO)
- Sout-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO)
Links to other WHO dengue pages
- WHO Health topic
- International travel and health
- Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR)
Related partner links
Last updated: 23 January 2014