LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - About 30 Marines on a Southern California military base, the nation’s largest, have been quarantined after one became the first U.S. serviceman known to have contracted the swine flu virus, the Marine Corps said on Wednesday.
The case at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the principal U.S. training facility for Marines and sailors deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the base said in a statement.
Occupying about 935 square miles (2,420 square km) in the California desert, not much smaller than the state of Rhode Island, Twentynine Palms is the largest military base in the United States with some 8,000 active-duty personnel.
The ill Marine, the first member of the U.S. armed forces reported by the military to have contracted the H1N1 virus, is being treated as an outpatient at the base and will remain isolated at his barracks.
“He is doing well, and his condition continues to improve,” the base statement said.
About 30 other Marines who had been “active socially” with him are being quarantined as well, the statement said. They will be permitted to return to full duty after five days if they display no flu-like symptoms, it added.
“The Marine Corps, along with all of the armed forces, is monitoring the health of our force to ensure we’re taking the necessary precautions to educate and safeguard military and civilian personnel, as well as family members,” the statement said.
At a Pentagon briefing earlier in the day, Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway said the ill Marine at Twentynine Palms had not been to Mexico, where as many as 159 deaths have been attributed to the virus.
Two other major Marine bases in Southern California, Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, reported no suspected or confirmed cases of swine flu on Wednesday.
In an unrelated case reported by the U.S. military, two 16-year-old boys described as military family members were treated at an Air Force base clinic in Texas last month for what turned out to be swine flu.
The American Forces Press Service said those two cases were initially identified as part of the U.S. military’s worldwide influenza screening program.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney