Last week leaders in global health and tropical medicine convened in Philadelphia to talk about the latest scientific advances in their field as well as the current status of efforts to control tropical diseases around the world. With 2.5 billion people at risk of contracting dengue fever and more than 50 million people annually infected, many experts came to the conference to discuss new strategies to fight back against the global spread of a disease that at its worst can be deadly.

Dengue fever is the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease and is endemic in more than 100 countries worldwide. Transmitted from person to person through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, dengue infection can cause flu-like symptoms and in extreme cases circulatory failure, shock, coma and death. Yesterday in a guest blog for the ONE Campaign, Drs. Orin Levine and Sabin’s executive vice president Ciro de Quadros- both executive leaders of Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI) member institutions- pointed out that with more than 125 million international tourists visiting endemic countries, dengue control should be a priority for all countries.

Currently there is neither a cure nor a vaccine for dengue fever. However, experimental vaccines are showing promise in clinical trials and could be available as soon as 2015.

“When diseases can crisscross the world on airplanes, boats or trucks, everyone has a stake in global health,” says Levine and de Quadros. “With dengue vaccines we have a unique opportunity to get ahead of the disease rather than being forced to react and play catch-up. We know the toll of dengue is growing, and we know a vaccine is coming. Whether we are ready for the vaccines and ahead of the outbreaks requires all those countries affected by dengue to begin their planning now for vaccines in 2015.”

Recently we presented a blog series on DVI consortium members which described the work DVI is doing to prepare for future dengue vaccines- namely by developing plans for procurement and introduction, mobilizing and budgeting financial resources, and making necessary health system improvements to ensure that vaccines can be delivered swiftly and efficiently once available. If you missed it, here are links to Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

DVI was also featured today in an article by Voice of America (VOA) News. The article, which included an interview with DVI senior advisor Scott Halstead, discussed the need for a dengue vaccine and the current status of two experimental vaccines under development.

Photo credit for dengue-carrying mosquito: Sanofi Pasteur