Hundreds of Marine recruits report illness at San Diego boot camp (video)

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Hundreds of Marine recruits in a San Diego boot camp have reported symptoms consistent with a bacterial outbreak, according to an announcement by officials at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Tuesday.

Physicians are treating 302 patients, officials disclosed, the majority of whom have diarrheal symptoms linked to a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacterium.

“Our immediate focus is identifying, isolating and treating recruits who present symptoms,” said Brig. Gen. William Jurney, the commander of the depot. “We are working to identify the cause of the sickness, making sure our affected recruits can return to training as soon as possible and continuing training for recruits not influenced.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. E. coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick.”

The symptoms associated with the illness include diarrhea, painful stomach cramps, fever and vomiting. Those affected typically recover within a week, although severe infections develop into hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure, which could be life-threatening. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea are typically spread through contaminated water or food, or through contact with infected animals or persons.

On Wednesday, the bacteria were identified in recruits at both the depot and at Edson Range at Camp Pendleton. By Monday, the number of cases had spiked.

The CDC estimates that 265,000 Americans are affected by the bacteria annually, with 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths.

Investigators continue to search for the source of the contagion, while sick recruits are quarantined from anyone not yet showing symptoms. According to their statement, officials have instituted a policy requiring mandatory increased hand washing and ensured proper sanitation in all training areas, as well as increased inspections in the barracks, dining facilities and common areas by the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s Preventative Medicine Unit.

There are more than 5,500 candidates undergoing training at the depot. So far, drill instructors and other base staffers have not presented with symptoms.

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