AU Signs Disease Control and Prevention Agreement With US

The commander of U.S. troops in the West African nation of Liberia  is “cautiously optimistic” the war on Ebola is being won.




African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (L) with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

CHICAGO:   The United States of America and the African Union signed an agreement on Monday, [April 13, 2015] to create the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, signed a memo of cooperation formalizing the collaboration between the African Union Commission and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African ministries of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to any disease outbreak,”  the American CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement.

The African CDC is slated to launch later this year with the opening of a surveillance and response unit, which will provide technical expertise and help coordinate response to health emergencies, the statement said.

As part of the agreement, the U.S. CDC will send two public health experts to serve as long-term technical advisers to the African CDC.

The United States will also support fellowships for 10 African epidemiologists to help staff five regional African CDC coordinating centers which are being established to help monitor disease activity on the continent, Reuters has reported from Chicago, in the US.

The US has in the meantime played a critical  role in the fight against the ebola epidemic in west Africa,  where there are signs the epidemic is subsiding.

Medical personel disinfect a person suspected to have the ebola virus in Liberial

Medical personnel disinfect a person suspected to have the Ebola virus in Liberia

The publication USA Today  says the commander of U.S. troops in the West African nation of Liberian  is “cautiously optimistic” the war on Ebola is being won, but says hard work remains to halt the spread of the deadly virus.

Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky told USA Today that they see progress, but there are 20 new cases every day, which means that they cannot slow down efforts to combat the spread of the disease.

The rate of infection in Liberia has leveled off in recent weeks, but cases in nearby Sierra Leone and Guinea continue to climb, and Mali reported an outbreak recently. The epidemic has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa, about half of those in Liberia alone.

The persistent stream of new infections plaguing Liberia is largely occurring in rural areas that lack Ebola treatment centres the U.S. military is helping to build, Volesky said.  In addition to building or supporting up to 17 new treatment centres, the U.S. military is training health care workers to staff them and is testing blood samples more rapidly for diagnoses.

Volesky has announced that the number of U.S. troops the military had planned to deploy to Liberia would be reduced from 4 000 to about 3 000. There are about 2 200 currently.  Reduced concerns about security were part of the rationale for the reduction, Volesky said. There were originally plans to send a battalion of U.S. military police for protection. That was later reduced to a single company, he said.

Volesky said he’s been pleased at the success the military has had working with the Liberian government, U.S. Embassy and USAID. His troops, who are monitored daily for fever and take malaria pills, have remained healthy, he said.

Volesky cautioned against an early withdrawal of troops from Liberia after the clinics are completed and the health care workers are trained by the end of December. He said its imperative U.S. forces remain to ensure what is built continues to operate.