What is dengue fever? Why does it cause hair loss?
I get a lot of questions about Dengue fever and whether or not it is implicated in hair loss. Dengue fever is an illness caused by the Dengue virus which is spread from the mosquito. It has the potential to cause a very severe illness, very similar to the 'flu' and can be fatal in some cases. About 400 million infections occur per year making it a common infection.
Infections typically occur in the tropics and subtropics. Most of our patients with Dengue acquire infections from travel to the Carribean, central America and and South America. However Dengue infected mosquitos are found in many areas of the world, including Africa, part of the Mediterranean, South and Southeast Asia as well as other areas.
Individuals and tourists in the area get bitten by a mosquito carrying the Dengue virus. Areas which open water which facilitate breeding of mosquitos are more likely to facilate spread. Because mosquitos bite at sunrise and sunset, these times of the day are most at risk for humans to be bitten by a mosquito infected with the Dengue-virus.
What are the symptoms of Degnue virus?
Individuals infected with Dengue virus usually develop symptoms a few days after being bitten. It can be as long as 2 weeks. Symptoms are very similar to the common flu and include high fever, a very bad headache, pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle pain, vomitting, rash. A small proportion of people become very sick and develop bleeding from the gums and internal bleeding problems and breathing problems. As I mentioned above, Dengue can be fatal.
Hair loss from Dengue virus
Hair loss is fairly common with dengue fever. Hair loss occurs usually a few months after the illness starts and lasts a few months. The proper term for this type of hair loss is 'telogen effluvium'. The hair loss from Dengue can be quite dramatic. It usually grows back but can take 6-9 months unless some other type of hair loss crops up in the interim. The hair shedding from dengue eventually stops on its own. There is not a lot that can be done to help it ... other than for the individual to continue to get better.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299