updated 12/4/2008 11:37:15 AM ET 2008-12-04T16:37:15

Measles deaths worldwide declined dramatically to about 200,000 a year, continuing a successful trend, global health authorities reported Thursday.

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From 2000 to 2007, annual measles deaths dropped 74 percent, largely because of vaccination campaigns, according to a report from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

Measles has long been a leading cause of death of young children globally and still kills more than 500 a day. But health officials estimate 11 million deaths were avoided in the decline.

The most dramatic improvements were seen in Africa and in Greater Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where measles deaths dropped by about 90 percent.

The least progress was in Southeast Asia, where most of the world's measles deaths now occur. India alone accounted for about two-thirds of the world's 2007 measles deaths. Most children get only one dose of vaccine in that country; two is standard in other nations.

The report appears this week in publications of the CDC and WHO.

It was released Thursday by the Measles Initiative, a global partnership. Last year it reported that worldwide measles deaths dropped 60 percent from 1999 to 2005.

The group's estimates come from a mathematical model that factors in vaccination rates and death rates for unvaccinated children.

Measles has been resurgent in the United States, where cases this year reached their highest level in more than a decade. "It's ironic," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Measles deaths are rare in the United States. Cases are, too: This year's increased case count totals only 135. Nearly half of the recent cases involved children whose parents rejected vaccination.

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