Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics and local spatial variation in dengue virus transmission is strongly influenced by rainfall, temperature, urbanization and distribution of the principal mosquito vector Aedes aegypti. Currently, endemic dengue virus transmission is reported in the Eastern Mediterranean, American, South-East Asian, Western Pacific and African regions, whereas sporadic local transmission has been reported in Europe and the United States as the result of virus introduction to areas where Ae. aegypti and Aedes albopictus, a secondary vector, occur. The global burden of the disease is not well known, but its epidemiological patterns are alarming for both human health and the global economy. Dengue has been identified as a disease of the future owing to trends toward increased urbanization, scarce water supplies and, possibly, environmental change. According to the WHO, dengue control is technically feasible with coordinated international technical and financial support for national programmes. This Primer provides a general overview on dengue, covering epidemiology, control, disease mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment and research priorities.