Dozens of Marine recruits remain sick from E. coli

SAN DIEGO — About 70 Marines-in-training remained ill Friday with apparent E. coli-related symptoms at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton amid a week-old outbreak of diarrheal illnesses at the military installations, authorities reported.

Among the cases were 14 new ones diagnosed since Thursday, according to MCRD public affairs.

Most of the affected personnel are being cared for at military medical facilities, but 17 recruits have been admitted to an off-base hospital.

Nine of the latter patients have developed a complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious ailment that can lead to life-threatening kidney failure, according to Marine Corps officials.   On Monday, base officials announced about 300 cases of intestinal ailments at the two San Diego-area installations. The cause or causes of the debilitating bacterial exposure remain under investigation.

“We remain dedicated to supporting the recruits and families most affected, and (to) preparing recruits to return to training,” said Brig. Gen. William Jurney, commanding general of MCRD San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region.

USMC officials have announced the following preventive actions in response to the infections:

— Forwarding of samples and specimens for testing to the U.S. Army Public Health Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, to determine the cause of the illnesses;

— Continued inspection of all meal-preparation and service facilities at the affected facilities for cleanliness, proper food storage and sanitary handling procedures;

— Altered menu options for infected personnel to better facilitate maintenance of healthy diet and recovery;

— Separation and treatment protocols isolating recruits with symptoms and limiting interaction with those who are unaffected;

— Increased hygiene requirements, focusing particularly on hand washing;

— Enhanced cleaning to ensure proper hygiene in all areas;

— Increased inspections of barracks, cafeterias and common areas by the Naval Medical Center San Diego Preventative Medicine Unit; and

— Dissemination of guidance on identifying symptoms to allow for proactive and prompt treatment for potential patients.

More than 500 new Marines graduated from recruit training locally Friday. Those who have exhibited symptoms of diarrheal illness will remain on base temporarily for continued observation, according to USMC leadership.

Family members will be contacted if a recruit is hospitalized, has a rescheduled graduation date or has to undergo further observation, and every effort will be made to allow personnel to complete missed training with their original units in order to remain on track for their planned commencement dates, authorities said.