North African countries are deeply concerned about the situation, fearing contamination, as Algerian authorities were slow to react to the plague, failed to spot the early signs of the deadly ailment and tried at first to minimize its health risks before admitting the cholera outbreak.
Now the situation has become very scary and might spin out of control, threatening the whole region. In neighboring Morocco, the health ministry is on high alert to monitor and detect any possible cases, while Tunisia announced precautionary measures, advising citizens not to drink water from unknown sources and to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.
According to the Algerian health ministry, at least 139 people have been hospitalized across the country since August 7, confirming some fifty cases of cholera.
In a bid to avoid public backlash and social resentment in a country on a verge of implosion due to deepening political crisis and endemic corruption, the Algerian authorities say only two people died so far of cholera, but many believe there are more deaths related to this bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water.
Most cholera cases were reported in the provinces of Blida, Bouira, Tipaza, Medea and Ain Defla, as well as in the capital. Algerians accuse the government of negligence, saying the outbreak could have been averted had authorities been quick in their response.
Mohamed Bekkat Berkani, president of the National Council of Doctors (GPs) deplored the health situation in the country, saying the local Pasteur Institute was not able to control the “epidemic” or identify its origin.
In recent months, several cases of water contamination and health problems have been reported by Algerian media blaming the irrigation of fruits and vegetables with wastewater.
This infectious disease causes severe diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if left untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
According to the World Health Organization, cholera is most common in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. Common locations include sub-Saharan Africa and not a country like Algeria, member of the OPEC with huge cash and oil resources.