Patients are treated Wednesday at a hospital in Manzanillo, Cuba, where doctors are battling a cholera outbreak.

Story highlights

Contaminated drinking wells may be to blame for the outbreak, the health ministry said

The three who died had other health problems, officials say

Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting

Havana, Cuba CNN  — 

A cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba has infected 53 people and killed three, according to a Cuban Health Ministry note published by state media Tuesday.

Cholera, a bacterial infection of the small intestine, causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in infected people.

The outbreak took place in Granma province, according to the Health Ministry, after approximately 1,000 cases of severe diarrhea were reported there over the last several weeks.

Doctors at first suspected food poisoning

As a result, the ministry said several drinking wells in the area were contaminated.

Of the 53 confirmed cases of cholera, the Health Ministry reported, three people died. The victims were 66, 70 and 95 years old. All three had prior health problems and further tests were being conducted to determine their exact causes of death, the Health Ministry said.

The outbreak was centered in Manzanillo, a city with a population of about 130,000.

“The Manzanillo outbreak is controlled and the number of cases are dropping as a result of the sanitary, hygienic and anti-epidemic measures being taken,” the Health Ministry note said.