After almost a year operating without a state epidemiologist – who coordinates strategies to combat infectious diseases – the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention this week reposted a “help wanted” ad and is expected to hire a candidate within the next few months.

The job posting comes at a time when a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland in California has spread to 14 states, although it has so far not migrated to Maine. During the past three years, Maine has experienced a resurgence in pertussis, also known as whooping cough, with hundreds of cases per year. And in late 2014 it grappled with the challenge of Ebola, when a nurse who had treated patients in Africa settled in Maine, prompting the state to seek a home quarantine that was later overturned in court.

An out-of-state candidate who had been negotiating with the CDC last fall and was expected to start by the end of 2014 ultimately rejected the agency’s job offer. Other finalists were not considered for the job, and state officials declined to say why they were spurned.

Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew was noncommittal when asked by the Press Herald last month how long the CDC would go without an epidemiologist, and seemed to indicate that a stopgap measure – contracting epidemiology services to outside consultants – could be in place for some time.

The job has been vacant since Dr. Stephen Sears resigned in May to take a job at Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine CDC, said Friday the agency hoped to hire an epidemiologist within the next three to four months. After the top job is filled, a deputy epidemiologist would also be hired, filling another vacant position, she said.

“We’re hoping to find a good match for what we need,” Pinette said. “This has always been our plan.”

The job would pay between $120,000 and $166,000 per year, which is competitive with what other states pay top epidemiologists.

“At the end of the day, it’s often not about money,” said Pinette, when asked about the state’s difficulties filling the position. “It’s about lifestyle and personal reasons as factors for why candidates are a good fit.”

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, former director of the Maine CDC, said she’s pleased to hear the job will be filled.

“Especially with measles becoming a concern and so many infectious diseases that are threats, we need to have an epidemiologist as soon as possible,” Mills said.

While Maine has not had a measles case, the highly contagious respiratory disease has afflicted more than 100 people elsewhere in the U.S.

The state is also considered more vulnerable to some infectious diseases because 5.2 percent of Maine children entering kindergarten have not been vaccinated, the fifth-highest rate in the nation.

Pinette is an internal medicine doctor and does not specialize in infectious diseases, but she has been handling epidemiology duties with help from the CDC staff. The state entered into a $5,000, four-month contract with InterMed in Portland beginning Feb. 1 to provide epidemiology consulting services for up to 14 days per month, according to the contract.

The CDC is also facing a $10 million cut in Gov. Paul Le- Page’s proposed state budget, although that may be altered by the Legislature. The state is now operating with vacancies in one-fourth of its 50 public health nurse positions. The public health nurses operate vaccine clinics.

“This is a concern because these public health nurses are the ground troops doing the real work of preventing and controlling outbreaks,” Mills said.

The state currently employs eight epidemiologists, an epidemiology program manager and several other employees who help with the state’s readiness and response to infectious diseases, according to CDC spokesman John Martins.

Pinette said she did not have a stance on the potential budget cuts, only to say that she trusts the Legislature to adequately fund the agency.

“We will do the best we can with the skilled staff that we have,” Pinette said.