When was the first reported dengue epidemic?

Updated: May 03, 2019
  • Author: Darvin Scott Smith, MD, MSc, DTM&H; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Outbreaks of febrile illnesses compatible with dengue fever have been recorded throughout history, with the first epidemic described in 1635 in the West Indies.

In 1779-1780, the first confirmed, reported outbreak of dengue fever occurred almost simultaneously in Asia, North America, and Africa. In 1789, the American physician Benjamin Rush published an account of a probable dengue fever epidemic that had occurred in Philadelphia in 1780. Rush coined the term breakbone fever to describe the intense symptoms reported by one of his patients.

A denguelike epidemic in East Africa in the early 1820s was called, in Swahili, ki denga pepo ("it is a sudden overtaking by a spirit"). The English version of this term, “Dandy fever,” was applied to an 1827-28 Caribbean outbreak, and in the Spanish Caribbean colonies, that term was altered to “dengue.”


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