Dubai: The Algerian Health authority confirmed on Saturday that two people have died of cholera, while 139 have been hospitalized as the epidemic spreads to new areas.

“A 77-year-old woman died on Friday night and the tests proved that the cause of death was due to cholera,” Jamal Furar, Director-General of Preventative Diseases at the Algerian Ministry of Health, said at a news conference after meeting with officials from several ministries to assess the situation late on Saturday.

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Furar added, “[The] cases were in four states: Algiers, Tebessa, Blida and Bouira, and the outbreak was linked to water contamination.”

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Cholera is a disease caused by bacteria, and it is most frequently transmitted through contaminated water sources.

In recent months, several cases of water contamination have been reported in Algerian media, from contaminated water wells and sanitation problems to fruits and vegetables being irrigated with wastewater.

Algeria’s last major cholera outbreak was in 1979, when more than 94 people died.

Public anger rose as authorities delayed announcing the outbreak even though dozens have been hospitalised since the beginning of last week. Algerians accused the health minister, who at first spoke of 88 cases of food poisoning on August 20 at a press conference, of negligence.

On August 23, when the first man died, the official story being touted was still of food poisoning.

Several doctors quoted by the Algerian media accused the authorities of trying to cover up the spread of the disease and delay the announcement. They confirmed to media that they notified officials when the first symptoms began to show in some patients.

Hashtag “cholera in Algeria” has been trending on Twitter as Algerians took to social media to express their anger and ridicule authorities after the Director-General of Pasteur Institute, Dr Zubayr Harth, presented the initial information on the disease, stressing that Algeria is not the only country suffering from cholera. “It is in Yemen, Niger and Chad. Many countries have developed cholera and do not announce it … while our policy in Algeria is transparency and it took political courage from authorities to announce the outbreak,” he had said.

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