Dengue fever is the most prevalent arboviral infection worldwide, with up to 40% of the world population living in endemic regions. Among travelers to tropical countries, dengue infection is increasingly reported, and it is now a leading cause of post-travel fever. Outbreaks of dengue-like illness were already described since the 18th century, but it is only in the last half century that a severe form of the disease - dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) has been described. Although the cause of DHF is not established, the prevailing theory attributes the disease to antibody-dependent enhancement of viral replication, in the presence of a secondary dengue infection. Comparative studies of primary vs. secondary infection are difficult to perform in endemic countries because of the rarity of primary infection except during early infancy. Travelers on the other hand are usually diagnosed with primary infection and are therefore a better study population. Data on dengue and DHF among travelers appears to suggest that severe dengue and DHF occur in similar rates among cases with primary and with secondary infections. Epidemiological and physiological data from travelers suggest that the prevailing theory on the causes of DHF needs to be reconsidered.