Hundreds of Marine recruits fell ill in an outbreak of E. coli at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Edson Range at Camp Pendleton, California, including nine that have developed kidney failure.
U.S. Marine Corps officials have not identified the source of the E. coli outbreak but said the matter is under investigation and announced several measures being implemented to prevent further illnesses.
Seventeen of the Marines-in-training sickened in the E. coli outbreak have required hospitalization off base, including nine whose illness led to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that can cause strokes, seizures, and death.
“We remain dedicated to supporting the recruits and families most affected, and (to) preparing recruits to return to training,” Brig. Gen. William Jurney, commanding general of MCRD San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, said in a statement.
E. coli is commonly spread through food and water contaminated with the bacteria, most commonly in tainted produce and meat. The germ is also communicable by person-to-person contact. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that E. coli sickens 265,000 people in the U.S. every year, leading to 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths
Symptoms of E. coli infection usually include painful stomach cramps, diarrhea that may become bloody, fever, and vomiting. Most people sickened recover within a week, but some may develop serious and potentially life-threatening complications, including HUS and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a blood disorder marked by clotting of small blood vessels.
USMC officials said that they have sent specimen samples to the U.S. Army Public Health Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for testing.
Food preparation practices at the affected bases also remain under observation, and officials said they are checking the facilities for cleanliness, proper food storage, and sanitary handling procedures.
The bases are also implementing separation and treatment protocols that involve isolating sickened recruits with those who are unaffected, among other measures aimed at promoting hygiene.