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Researchers to gather in Syracuse to discuss emerging threat of Dengue fever

Biomedical researchers from across the world will converge in Syracuse Friday to discuss a disease that is usually associated with tropical climates. Dengue fever, which is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the tropics, has turned up in the United States.

It's an example of an emerging infection, according to Dr. Mark Polhemus, of Upstate Medical University. The infection is spread by mosquitos that are found all over the world. Now that cases have started showing up in the southern United States,  it could eventually make it's way up north.

"The Dengue virus is similar to the West Nile virus.  And we saw how the West Nile virus started in the United States and spread around. And there is the possibility that this virus could start out in the southern United States and travel where ever the mosquito that spread it, travels," he said.

Polhemus says there are no vaccines to prevent infection from Dengue fever, also known as "break bone" fever. Researchers in Syracuse are conducting clinical trials on a potential vaccine for the disease, which currently affects between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.  

"There are more cases now of Dengue, than there were back in the 1950s.  And the vector, the mosquito that transmits it, is found all over the place.  And more and more countries are being involved in Dengue, including the United States.  So there's cases of Dengue in the United States, in Texas, Hawaii and Southern Florida," said Polhemus.

The global health research forum this week will look at the potential for vaccines, as well as ways to control mosquitos that carry the disease.

Upstate is looking for volunteers for their clinical trials of a Dengue vaccine.

Information about the clinical trial can be found here or at  315-459-3031


Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.