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Malaria's Global Death Toll Much Higher Than Thought

FRIDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Malaria killed 1.2 million people worldwide in 2010, a figure nearly double other estimates, a new study says.

The researchers also said that although most malaria deaths occur in very young children, 42 percent of deaths occurred in children over age 5 and adults. The findings are published in the Feb. 4 edition of The Lancet.

According to the analysis of data collected from 1980 to 2010, global malaria deaths rose from 1 million in 1980 to a peak of 1.8 million in 2004.

Since then, increased malaria intervention efforts have helped to reduce malaria death rates, Christopher Murray, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues noted in journal news release.

The 1.2 million malaria deaths in 2010 was a 32 percent decrease from the number of malaria deaths in 2004, the authors noted.

In 2010, there were about 700,000 malaria deaths among African children under age 5, or about 56 percent of all global malaria deaths.

The number of malaria deaths in adults is also substantial, the researchers said. People aged 15 to 49, 50 to 69, and 70 and older accounted for 20 percent, 9 percent and 6 percent of worldwide malaria deaths in 2010, respectively. This means that more than one-third of all malaria deaths occur in adults.

The risk of malaria death in 2010 was highest in western, eastern and especially central sub-Saharan Africa.

"Since the global peak in 2004, there has been a substantial decrease in malaria deaths that is attributable to the rapid, although variable, scale-up of control activities in sub-Saharan Africa. This scale-up has been driven in part by an expansion in health aid targeted towards malaria and suggests that the investments made by major funders such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have rapidly decreased the burden of malaria," the authors wrote in the report.

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about malaria.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Feb. 2, 2012

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