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Malaria Deaths Have Halved Globally Since 2000 but Ebola Remains a Concern: WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed on Tuesday that the prevalence of one of the deadliest mosquito-borne diseases worldwide has dropped.

WHO said that the number of malaria deaths has significantly declined since 2000 and the number of cases have been steadily falling. The United Nations agency attributed the declining number of malaria cases and death to more people getting accurate diagnosis, receiving treatment, receiving bed nets that provide them with protection against the bites of the Anopheles mosquito, which is responsible for transmitting malaria.

According to the World malaria report 2014, the global mortality rate of malaria decreased by 47 percent from 2000 to 2013. The WHO African Region, where approximately 90 percent of malaria deaths occur, has in fact seen a 54 percent reduction in death rate.

Fewer individuals across sub-Saharan Africa are also infected or have asymptomatic malaria infections. Despite a 43 percent increase in population, the number of Malaria cases in this region declined from 173 million to 128 million between 2000 and 2013.

During this three year period, people's access to insecticide-treated bed nets considerably increased with almost half of all those who are at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa receiving these protective nets in 2013, a massive jump from only 3 percent in 2004. WHO said that the trend is likely to continue as over 200 million bed nets are set for delivery to endemic African countries by the end of the year.

The U.N. agency also said that access to accurate diagnostic testing and effective treatment of malaria increased worldwide. In 2008, only 46 million rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) were acquired worldwide but this has increased to 319 million in 2013. Nearly 400 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a crucial intervention for treating malaria, were also bought last year, up from only 11 million eight years earlier.

"We have the right tools and our defences are working," said WHO director-general Margaret Chan. "But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable."

The report, however, also revealed that despite improvements in the global fight against malaria, the Ebola outbreak that devastated West Africa had a negative influence on malaria treatment and malaria control programs in the region particularly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

Because of the high number of malaria transmissions in these countries, WHO issued temporary measures for combatting malaria in these nations during the Ebola outbreak including providing ACTS to all fever patients and conducting mass anti-malaria drug administration with ACTs in areas that have high incidence of both malaria and Ebola.

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