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Dengue Virus Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Updated December 4th, 2023
Disclaimer: Risk group, biosafety level, and all other precautions noted here are subject to change after a risk assessment by EHS.


Agent Type Risk Group Biosafety Level Animal Housing Biosafety Level
Virus RG-2 BSL-2 ABSL-2

Agent Characteristics 

Risk Group:  RG-2 associated with human disease, rarely serious; preventive or therapeutic interventions often available.

Agent Type:  Virus

Description: Dengue virus, or DENV (a member of the Flaviviridae), has a spherical enveloped virion 40-50 nm in diameter. The genome is single-stranded, positivesense RNA surrounded by an icosahedral nucleocapsid. The virus occurs in four distinct types (serotypes) DENV 1-4. Dengue Virus causes the most common arthropodborne viral disease in humans with 50–100 million infections per year. Dengue virus causes an acute febrile disease known as dengue or dengue fever (breakbone fever), although most infections are asymptomatic. In some cases, it also causes severe dengue (formerly known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS)). DENV is endemic in most regions of the tropics (Asia, India, Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America, and Mexico). The disease is maintained mostly by a human-mosquito-human cycle; nonhuman primate infection is common in West Africa. Prior exposure to one type of DENV serotype is believed to pre-dispose an individual to severe dengue when infected with a second DENV serotype.
Host Range: Humans, mosquitoes (as a vector, Aedes spp., Stegomyia spp.) and non-human primates

Host Shedding: Blood, Saliva                           

Route of Exposure to Humans: Arthropod Vectors, Mucous Membranes, Vertical Transmission, Percutaneous, Broken skin

Infectious Dose: Less than 10 plaque forming units (PFU). Fewer than 10 PFU led to infection in 50% of volunteers treated with an attenuated dengue virus vaccine candidate.                                 

Incubation Period: From 3 to 14 days; usually 4 to 7 days

Health Hazards

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, headache, dehydration, weight loss, lethargy)

  • Cutaneous symptoms (i.e. skin lesions, rash)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms (i.e. joint and muscle pain)

Immunizations: None available                            Prophylaxis*: None available

*Formal medical advice is obtained during medical consultations with Cornell Health or primary healthcare provider as needed.

Persons working with Dengue virus who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant should schedule an appointment with Cornell Health Occupational Medicine for counseling.

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

The virus is stable in dried blood for up to 9 weeks at room temperature

1:10 Bleach Dilution 

70% Ethanol

Viruses are sensitive to moist heat (121°C for at least 15 min), dry heat (160-170°C for at least 1 hour), and low temperature sterilization (i.e. Ethylene oxide or
plasma sterilization). The virus is also inactivated at a pH of 3.

For more guidance on disinfection see: disinfectant selection.

Laboratory Hazards 

  • High energy-creating activities (centrifugation, sonication, high pressure systems, vortexing, tube cap popping)
  • Handling of sharps (needles, scalpels, microtome blades, broken glass, etc.)
  • Splash/droplet-creating activities (shaking incubators, liquid culturing, mechanical pipetting)
  • Equipment contamination
  • Exposed skin/uncovered wounds

Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) History: 14 cases reported up to 1988; one case resulted from splashing infectious material in the face.

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2


Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • Biosafety Cabinet (for aerosol containment)
  • Centrifuge lids or safety cups; samples are loaded/unloaded inside the BSC
  • Use of safety-engineered sharp
  • Sticky paper and UV trap lights to prevent potential escape of infection vector insects.
  • Eye Protection
  • Single gloves
  • Snap-front lab coat with cinch cuffs

Waste Management: Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Shipping Guidance: Refer to EHS Biological Materials Shipping 

Animal Vivarium Guidance

Animal Housing Biosafety Level (ABSL): ABSL-2

Animal Biosecurity: Information not available.          

Perform Inoculations: In a Biosafety Cabinet

Change Cages: In a Biosafety Cabinet

Exposure and Spill Procedures 

If there is potential that exposure to dengue has occurred, consult with a healthcare provider prior to taking NSAIDs.

Mucous Membranes: Flush eyes, mouth, or nose for 15 minutes at an eyewash station. See: responding to exposures.

Other Exposures: Wash with soap and water for 15 minutes (open wounds, sores, etc.) or a minimum of 20 seconds for areas with intact skin. See: responding to exposures.

Small Spills: Notify others working in the lab. Evacuate area and allow 30 minutes for aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply disinfectant, working from the perimeter toward the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials. See: spill cleanup.

Large Spills: Request assistance from the EHS Spill Team by calling CUPD dispatch. Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone.

Incident Reporting: Immediately report the incident to supervisor and complete the EHS online injury/illness report as soon as possible.

Medical Follow-Up:

  • For students, seek medical attention at Cornell Health or local primary care provider. Call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24-hour phone consultation line) or a local urgent care. 
  • For faculty and staff, seek medical evaluation with a local primary care provider or urgent care. Cornell Health does not see employees for post-exposure care. 
  • Emergencies: Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone. 

Cornell EHS would like to thank Emory University for the use of their Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS) format and some content. 

More Information


  1. Bäck AT, Lundkvist A. Dengue viruses - an overview. Infect Ecol Epidemiol. 2013;3:10.3402/iee.v3i0.19839. Published 2013 Aug 30.  
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & National Institutes for Health (NIH). Biosafety in microbiological and biomedical laboratories.  (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, 2009). Retrieved from CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web Archive (Federal Depository Library Program Web Archive)
  3. CDC. Dengue; viewed February 11, 2019
  4. Chen, L. H. & Wilson, M. E. Transmission of Dengue Virus without a Mosquito Vector: Nosocomial Mucocutaneous Transmission and Other Routes of Transmission. Clin. Infect. Dis. 39, e56–e60 (2004). 
  5. Kuno, G. Dengue Transmission without Involvement of Mosquito Vector. Clin. Infect. Dis. 40, 774–775 (2005).
  6. Lee, C. et al. Laboratory-acquired dengue virus infection by needlestick injury: a case report, South Korea, 2014. Ann. Occup. Environ. Med. 28, 16 (2016). 
  7. Public Health Agency of Canada; viewed February 11, 2019 
  8. Dengue Virus Net; s viewed February 11, 2019
  9. Poloni, T. R. et al. Detection of dengue virus in saliva and urine by real time RT-PCR. Virol. J. 7, 22 (2010). Cornell EHS would like to thank Emory University for the use of their Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS) format and some content.