US, African Union sign deal to form African disease agency

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of African Union (AU) Commission, addresses a news conference during the closing ceremony of the 24th Ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 31, 2015. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The United States and the African Union signed an agreement on Monday 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," 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.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Ted Botha)