Medical Definition of Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF): A syndrome due to the dengue virus that tends to affect children under 10, causing abdominal pain, hemorrhage (bleeding) and circulatory collapse (shock). DHF starts abruptly with high continuous fever and headache plus respiratory and intestinal symptoms with sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Shock occurs after 2 to 6 days with sudden collapse, cool clammy extremities, weak thready pulse, and blueness around the mouth (circumoral cyanosis). There is bleeding with easy bruising, blood spots in the skin (petechiae), spitting up blood (hematemesis), blood in the stool (melena), bleeding gums and nosebleeds (epistaxis). Pneumonia and heart inflammation (myocarditis) may be present. The mortality is appreciable ranging from 6 to 30%. Most deaths occur in children. Infants under a year of age are especially at risk of death. DHF is also called Philippine, Thai, or Southeast Asian hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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