Maine's new CDC Director faces questions from legislative committee

By  | 

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Maine's new CDC Director met the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee for the first time Thursday.

Dr. Nirav Shah previously served as Illinois' Director of Public Health.

He said his priorities include filling empty positions in the department, the opioid crisis, child health, and child lead poisoning.

Some Republicans are concerned with Shah's record in Illinois, where a Legionnaires' outbreak at a veterans home reportedly led to 13 deaths.

This led to both of that state's U.S. Senators to call for his resignation.

"You were ousted from that position because of this issue which 12 people did die and hundreds of others were made sick," said Rep. Beth O'Connor, R-Berwick. "That makes me very, very uncomfortable. I know that had I been in a similar position, I would have told any governor, 'No, we need to do more.'"

But Shah says his department responded very quickly to the outbreak and the federal CDC said they did nothing wrong.

"In the case of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in 2015, my agency notified the facility in 27 minutes of what was going on," said Shah. "The facility then put into place the measures that we recommended, that I just mentioned -- restricting access to water, making sure that aerosols were turned off, the ice machines were turned off. According to the CDC, that quick action is what ultimately led two weeks later to the number of cases going down."

"Tragic outcome no doubt, but one in which we followed the protocol that states and the CDC recommends."

Shah also said that they're currently working on the large number of asylum seekers that were just resettled in Portland.