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Army looks for cause of base illness

Published Oct. 9, 2005

An Army reservist died Sunday, possibly of a heart attack, after he and 48 others developed food poisoning symptoms, officials said.

The soldiers, members of the Army Reserve's Company C, 397th Engineer Battalion from Chippewa Falls, became ill Saturday while on a field training exercise, said Maj. Tim Donovan, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Army National Guard at Fort McCoy. About 90 minutes earlier they had eaten a breakfast of boiled eggs and ham, Donovan said.

Fourteen soldiers were hospitalized. One was released Sunday, the others were released Monday, Donovan said.

On Saturday, "people felt pretty sure it was food poisoning because it was after a few meals, but now they're checking out other possible sources such as the water supply," said Lt. Col. Peter Fox, a Fort McCoy spokesman.

There were about 9,000 military personnel at the fort at the time, including Army reservists, National Guard members from several states and active duty soldiers.

Eighty-five soldiers had been working in the field and living in tents, but the illness only involved members of the Chippewa Falls company, Donovan said.

The soldiers' symptoms included vomiting, severe diarrhea, dehydration and dizziness.