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WHO: Malaria Deaths Drop 20 Percent Since 2000

Iren Salama (L) holds her baby Pendo as it is given an injection as part of a malaria vaccine trial at a clinic in the Kenya coastal town of Kilifi, November 23, 2010 (file photo)

The World Health Organization reports that deaths from malaria around the world have dropped more than 20 percent since 2000.

The U.N. agency says deaths dropped from 985,000 in 2000 to about 780,000 in 2009. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa.

The WHO released the latest figures Tuesday in its World Malaria Report 2010.

The annual number of malaria cases dropped slightly over the last decade, from 233 million to 225 million.

The report attributed the declines to disease prevention and control measures.

Although malaria is preventable and curable, the WHO says a child dies of the disease in Africa every 45 seconds, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all childhood deaths.

Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes.

The disease initially causes mild symptoms including fever, headache, chills and vomiting. If not treated within 24 hours, it can cause more severe symptoms such as severe anemia and respiratory distress, which may lead to death.