TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan's health chief resigned Friday to take responsibility for the worsening SARS crisis that has shut two hospitals in the capital. The government appointed a highly respected epidemiologist to replace him.
Twu Shiing-Jer's resignation came as 10 new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome were reported, along with three deaths that included the first two doctors in Taiwan (search) to be killed by SARS (search).
The disease has now sickened 274 people and killed 37 in Taiwan.
The new health chief is Chen Chien-jen, 51, who studied at Johns Hopkins University and heads a cabinet taskforce that deals with the SARS outbreak.
Later Friday, the outgoing health chief said the chief of the Center for Disease Control (search), Chen Tzay-jinn, also offered his resignation. "It will be up to the new Health Department chief to make a decision about Chen," Twu told lawmakers.
One of the island's top SARS fighters warned that another wave of cases was about to erupt. "We can expect another wave of SARS cases infected after May 10," Lee Ming-liang, head of the government's SARS Control Committee, said Friday.
He said more infections were expected as the result of the two most recent hospital outbreaks, at Taipei's National Taiwan University Hospital and at Chang Gung in southern Kaohsiung city.
President Chen Shui-bian urged Taiwanese to prepare for a long fight against the disease.
"A tiny spark could set off a bush fire," Chen said. "Even if we fail to fix a small hole, all our past efforts and sacrifices would have been made for no avail."