The incidence of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DF/DHF) has increased significantly over the last decades. Yearly, an estimated 50-100 million cases of DF and about 250000-500000 cases of DHF occur worldwide. The epidemiological situation in Latin America now resembles that in Southeast Asia. Here, the main clinical, epidemiological and virological observations in the American region are presented and compared with those previously reported from Southeast Asia. During 2002, more than 30 Latin American countries reported over 1000000 DF cases. DHF occurred in 20 countries with more than 17000 DHF cases, including 225 fatalities. The co-circulation of multiple serotypes has been reported from many countries. In the Americas, DHF is observed both in children and adults; secondary infection by a different dengue virus serotype has been confirmed as an important risk factor for this severe form of the disease. However, some new risk factors such as the interval of dengue virus infections and the ethnicity and underlying chronic conditions of the patient have also been identified. The sequence of dengue virus infections and association with certain genotypes are further factors of importance. We also discuss the control and prevention strategies. In conclusion, without urgent action for the prevention and control of dengue/DHF and its vector, the current situation will worsen and, more dramatical, there is a risk of the urbanization of yellow fever.