McNeill to be replaced as state epidemiologist

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2006

State Health Officer Dr. Brian Amy said a nationwide search will be conducted to find a new state epidemiologist to replace Dr. Mills McNeill.

Amy told members of the state Board of Health on Monday that McNeill would focus on other programs and projects within the Department of Health.

The Health Department came under fire last month during a Senate Public Health Committee hearing during which it was revealed that not all possible cases of the West Nile virus in Mississippi were being reported to the public and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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McNeill had defended the action, saying physicians were told about the cases, even if the public was not.

Amy said the hearings had no bearing on McNeill’s removal as state epidemiologist.

“He was already in charge of health protection and the lab and epidemiology,” Amy said. “One of the things we’re focusing on, and is becoming a big thing, is pandemic flu preparedness, as well as the $25 million lab, as well as the all-hazard approach to protection and everything. He’s got his hands full with that.”

Amy said the change is a good move.

“We need to have more physicians doing more things,” Amy said.

Senate Public Health Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, who’s conducting the hearings into operations at the Health Department, said he had not heard about McNeill.

“That’s fascinating to me,” Nunnelee said.

Nunnelee said lawmakers must reauthorize the Health Department during the 2007 Legislature, and changes will likely be made within the agency.