Georgia public health official to head U.S. CDC

(Reuters) - The Trump administration on Friday named Georgia public health Commissioner Dr Brenda Fitzgerald to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Fitzgerald fills a spot held temporarily by the agency’s deputy director following the January resignation of Dr. Tom Frieden, an infectious disease expert who was appointed by the Obama administration to lead the CDC in 2009.

Fitzgerald, an obstetrician-gynecologist, has run the Georgia state health agency for the past six years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.

HHS Secretary Dr Tom Price, a former U.S. representative from Georgia, said Fitzgerald has “a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health.”

Frieden, who played a leading role in fighting the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and Zika epidemic that begin in Brazil in 2015, wished Fitzgerald well.

“Her experience as state health commissioner is important to understanding the needs of public health.” Frieden said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

A key question, he said, will be whether Fitzgerald will succeed in getting the Trump administration to support the CDC’s work by funding the agency in a stable and sufficient manner.

In its 2018 budget request, delivered to Congress in May, the White House proposed a $1.2 billion, or 17 percent, cut to the CDC’s budget, which Frieden has said on Twitter would increase rates of cancer and HIV, and make Americans less safe.

Dr Anne Schuchat, who has been the acting CDC director since Jan. 20, is returning to her role as CDC’s principal deputy director.

Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Steve Orlofsky