Thursday, February 05, 2009

pandemic preparedness chief to head cdc

Reuters | Dr. Richard Besser, who heads disaster and pandemic preparedness for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was named on Thursday as acting director of the agency.

Besser, trained as a pediatrician and infectious diseases expert, replaces Dr. Julie Gerberding, the high-profile CDC head who announced her resignation quietly last week. William Gimson, who is not a medical doctor, has been acting director.

"This designation will be effective until a permanent CDC ... director is appointed and enters on duty," the Health and Human Services department said in a statement.

Besser has been director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, which is responsible for public health emergency preparedness and emergency response.

He helped coordinate the agency's response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 along the Gulf Coast and has helped oversee CDC's spending to help states get ready for a pandemic of influenza or other disease.