US, AU to establish Africa-based CDC

An official with the U.S. State Department said Friday that her country had been working with the African Union Commission to establish an African version of the U.S. Center for Disease Control

An official with the U.S. State Department said Friday that her country had been working with the African Union Commission to establish an African version of the U.S. Center for Disease Control

ADDIS ABABA – An official with the U.S. State Department said Friday that her country had been working with the African Union (AU) Commission to establish an African version of the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The announcement was made by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. assistant secretary of state in charge of the Bureau of Africa Affairs, who held a press conference on the sidelines of an African Union summit that kicked off Friday in Addis Ababa.

The CDC is a U.S. government body tasked with combating the spread of disease and maintaining domestic health security.

"We are working with the AU as they work to develop an AU center for disease control," Thomas-Greenfield said.

"We are working with all of the countries in the region to help them develop their own mechanisms to deal with epidemics like diseases, so that we do not have a crisis like this [Ebola epidemic] again," she said.

"What this crisis has taught us is that we need to be prepared for this kind of epidemic and we were not prepared," she added.

Ebola is a national security priority for the U.S. – one which Thomas-Greenfield described as a "crisis."

"We all realized that we had to put all our efforts towards helping these three countries [Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea] through this crisis," she said.

"We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel now with Ebola," she asserted.

Thomas-Greenfield added: "I was just told this morning that there are only 99 active [Ebola] cases; we know that Liberia is down to single digits; I understand that we are only getting one or two cases a day, but the fight is not over until the last case."

"Therefore," she went on, "we will continue to work with these countries; to work with our friends and partners here at the AU and around the world to ensure that there is not a single Ebola [case] left in West Africa or anywhere in the continent of Africa."

Asked if recent reports about Ebola mutations were cause for serious concern, she said: "I cannot really comment on whether Ebola has mutated. I am not a scientist; I think we have to leave that to the scientists… We are all watching and waiting to see what else will happen."

More than 20,000 people have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – the three hardest-hit countries.

Some 8,795 people have succumbed to the virus in the three West African countries, according to the World Health Organization. Of these, 1,910 were reported in Guinea alone.

Ebola, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe – often fatal – illness in humans.

The virus can be transmitted to people from wild animals, but can also spread via human-to-human transmission.

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