Always use a thermometer: 244 sickened by shiga toxin-producing E. coli at US Marine training base

In Nov. 2017, over 200 U.S. Marines-in-training were sickened by shiga-toxin producing E. coli at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton.

That outbreak was blamed on undercooked beef prepared by a civilian contractor, according to the results of an investigation.

First rule of public health (substitute military or any other organization): make public health look good.

According to Healio, the outbreak occurred in October and November among newly enlisted men at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, and Camp Pendleton, a nearby base where recruits conduct weapons and field training, according to Amelia A. Keaton, MD, MS, EIS officer in the CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch.

The outbreak involved Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) — a major cause of foodborne illness in the United States each year and the pathogen responsible for the current multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce. In all, 244 male recruits are suspected of being sickened, including 15 who developed a life-threatening complication of STEC infections called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Among those who developed HUS, six were deemed critically ill but none died, Keaton told Infectious Disease News during the CDC’s annual EIS conference.

She said the outbreak presented several challenges for investigators and highlighted some unique risk factors among military trainees living in close quarters.

“Nobody on our team had a military background, so we first wanted to understand what their training environment is like,” Keaton said. “Do they have any unique exposures that people in the general public don’t have? We wanted to get a sense of what day-to-day life was like for these guys and what risk factors for infection they were exposed to.”

Keaton and colleagues interviewed 43 case patients and 135 healthy controls, plus Marine officers, food workers and staff. They observed food preparation practices and studied recruit sleeping quarters, bathroom facilities and cafeterias where meals were served to around 2,000 to 3,000 recruits at a time, Keaton said.

Although they were unable to directly test any meat, through interviews investigators found that ill recruits were 2.4 times likelier to report consuming undercooked beef than healthy controls. Moreover, Keaton said investigators directly observed beef being undercooked.

According to Keaton, most dining facilities on military bases are run by civilian contractors, including the facilities involved in this outbreak, which offered the same menu prepared by the same company. The Navy is in charge of inspecting such facilities once a month, she said.

“A lot of people reported eating meals that were visibly undercooked,” Keaton said. “When we observed food preparation, we saw that food workers were cooking a large number of hamburger patties and a large number of meals. Because such a large number of meals are being prepared, they’re only able to check foods intermittently with a meat thermometer. In some instances, we saw there were temperature abuses where they weren’t necessarily cooking to temperatures recommended by California state law.”

85 sick with shiga-toxin E. coli at Marines base

About 85 U.S. Marines-in-training remained ill last week after an apparent shiga-toxin producing E. coli outbreak 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 medical cases were 19 new ones diagnosed since Oct. 31, 2017, according to MCRD public affairs. In all, 16 recruits were receiving treatment at an off-base hospital, with the remainder being cared for at military medical facilities.

Base officials initially announced a total of about 300 cases of intestinal ailments at the 2 San Diego-area installations on Oct. 30, 2017.

 That tally was down to roughly 215 a day later. The cause or causes of the debilitating bacterial exposure remain under investigation.

US Marines will do better than ‘subsist’ on Australian food

They will stay for years, number up to 2500, possibly have their own aircraft and artillery, train with the Aboriginal-dominated Norforce unit and drop in to help in Asia-Pacific disaster zones alongside Australia’s Diggers.

But whatever you do, don’t call the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin, Australia, part of a U.S. base.

”No, no again,” said Lieutenant-Colonel AnDroy Senegar when pressed on how much his operation looked like the forerunner of an official base.

”We will build no infrastructure. We will subsist on Australian food. We will be part of the community. It will be a partnership. We will not be intrusive.”

No worries, here’s our dinner from a couple of days ago: Moreton Bay sand crabs with stuffed shells. Whatever the Marines eat, there will be choices aplenty.

When the Marines arrived in early April for the first of their six-month rotations, then federal Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, justified their presence by saying: ”The world is moving in our direction. It is moving to the Asia-Pacific.

”It is not just the rise of China, it is the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined, the emergence of Indonesia, not just as a regional influence but as a global influence,” he said at a welcoming ceremony in Darwin.