Recruit Training Regiment battles bacteria
By Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | December 20, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
In the wake of a recent outbreak of bacterial infection among the recruit training population that might have caused the death of a recruit, Depot officials and medical personnel took action Sunday screening 2700 Marines and recruits for possible infection.
At 9:45 a.m. Sunday, Pvt. Miguel Zavala, was transported to the Naval Medical Center San Diego after he developed a rash that quickly spread throughout his body.
In spite of efforts to save his life, Zavala died Sunday at 1 p.m.
Maj. Gen. Jan Huly, commanding general Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the Western Recruiting Region, spoke of three unrelated deaths in the past month in a press brief Monday.
"I want to express, on behalf of all the Marines and Sailors here at the Depot, my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Privates Neal Edwards, Samuel Bruss and Miguel Zavala," he said.
"These young men exemplified our values of honor, courage and commitment in their quest to earn the title U.S. Marine," he said.
While autopsy reports concluded two of three recruit deaths were definitely not linked to the sudden outbreak of Group A Streptococcus Bacteria, the Depot staff is nonetheless taking every precaution to prevent any further tragic incidents from occurring aboard the Depot.
"We're doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of not only the recruits, but the training population here as well," said Maj. Gen. Jan Huly, commanding general MCRD San Diego, and the Western Recruiting Region.
The majority of recruits and training staff aboard the Depot were screened for the bacteria Sunday, and less than 7 percent tested positive. Out of 2,700 cultures taken, 185 came back positive.
According to Navy Capt. John Malone, director of medical services, and infectious disease specialist, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, outbreaks like this are not uncommon in close quarters living environments, such as college dormitories and recruit training installations like MCRD San Diego.
"This can be a very common finding in up to 15 percent of people who live in close quarters," said Malone.
According to Navy medical officials, the bacterium is spread through extended or prolonged direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin.
Malone emphasized this particular outbreak affects only those who come in extended or prolonged direct contact with recruits.
"This outbreak is confined to the recruit population, and all the recruits are restricted to the Depot in their closely structured training environment," he said.
In order to combat the bacteria and prevent it from spreading, all recruits and training staff assigned to the Recruit Training Regiment were administered antibiotics Sunday.
"The mass inoculation was a step in the right direction to ensure the safety of all recruits and staff members training and working here," said Sgt. Scott McLaughlin, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1146, Company B, First Recruit Training Battalion.
Maj. Gen. Huly suspended all physical training activities in RTR Monday for a period of 72 hours in order to prevent any sick or recovering recruits from overexerting themselves and to allow them the opportunity to rest.
Huly has also taken measures to educate recruits about the bacterium, and 10 percent of the recruit population will be screened for the bacteria on a weekly basis to further promote the health and welfare of the recruits and staff.
"The health and well-being of our Marine recruits is our greatest concern," Malone said.
Huly said he would reevaluate the situation Wednesday to see if physical training should be resumed.
Since the outbreak began last week, 126 recruits and staff aboard the Depot have been admitted to Naval Medical Center, San Diego.
By Wednesday, less than 20 recruits remained in the hospital. One recruit was in critical condition with Pneumonia related to the bacteria.
"We, as members of the Navy and Marine Corps team, are dedicated to the health and safety of our Marines and especially our Marine recruits," said Malone.
"We are dedicated to eliminating this infection from MCRD San Diego," said Malone.