Beaufort News

Marines await official cause of death for recruit

Test results to determine whether a 19-year-old recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island died this weekend from complications of meningitis have not been received yet by Marine officials, according to a depot spokesman.

KeErica Allen, 19, of Atlanta died at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston at about 4 p.m. Saturday. She was in her seventh of about 13 weeks of training with Oscar Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, according to Maj. William Pelletier, a depot spokesman.

Although it has not yet been confirmed Allen suffered from meningitis, her death is being attributed to complications from the disease, Pelletier said.

As a precaution, as many as 200 personnel at the depot who may have had contact with Allen were given the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin on Friday and Saturday, he said.

As of Monday afternoon, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control had no other reports of people experiencing meningitis symptoms, according to the agency's Region 8 public health preparedness director, Nick Davidson.

High fever, headache, and stiff neck are common symptoms of bacterial meningitis in anyone over the age of two years. These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take one to two days. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Davidson said depot officials have been "aggressive and proactive" in reporting the illness and making sure those who may have had contact with Allen were given antibiotics.

"We are quite satisfied they are taking the right steps in their reporting and to stop potential exposure of the illness," he said. "Our main concern is the potential for it to have spread to the larger community off the island, but it looks like they have taken the proper precautions to prevent that spread."

Allen first reported feeling ill to a drill instructor Thursday night. After a clinic appointment Friday afternoon, she complained she felt worse and was taken to Naval Hospital Beaufort. Later that night, Allen was transferred to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, according to Pelletier.

There, she received CT scans and a spinal tap to help with diagnosis and other treatment, he said.

Early Saturday, her condition worsened, and she was taken to MUSC at about 3 a.m., Pelletier said. Her parents were with her when she died at about 4 p.m., he said.

According to Allen's Facebook page, she attended Lovejoy High School in Clayton County, Ga., and Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Fla.

Like other recruits at the depot, Allen was given a meningitis immunization on her first day of medical screening at Parris Island, Pelletier said.

"Even though every recruit is vaccinated, the vaccination -- like any vaccination -- does not cover all strains," he said. "Some people are carriers of the bacteria and are capable of passing the strain without themselves getting sick."