Suspected cases of cholera continue to increase at hospitals in the northern Dominican province of Santiago, where at least 550 people have been treated in the past nine days for acute diarrhea.

Residents of the city of Tamboril, where the greatest number of cases have occurred, are complaining that the supposedly potable water they have been receiving is of terrible quality.

The director of the Union Medica clinic, Maria de Leon, called the situation worrisome given that of 33 patients the hospital treated in less than two weeks, seven tested positive for cholera.

"The cases of suspected cholera have increased enormously in the hospital and all of them are from Tamboril and are coming (on an emergency basis)," De Leon said.

The situation in Tamboril on Wednesday spurred Public Health Minister Freddy Nuñez Hidalgo to come there and visit the public hospital.

He told reporters the Public Health Ministry will remain abreast of the situation.

Health authorities in Tamboril have confirmed that, apparently, the outbreak of diarrhea was caused by contamination of the drinking water.

The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, where a cholera epidemic that began nearly two years ago has claimed almost 7,600 lives. EFE