Lifeguards falling ill at La Jolla Cove

Posted at 6:24 PM, Oct 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 21:24:30-04

SAN DIEGO - Five lifeguards who patrol the waters at La Jolla Cove have contracted bacterial infections -- including the superbug MRSA -- in the last three months.

The lifeguards were sickened despite San Diego County officials posting warning signs telling the public of high levels of bacteria, likely from the famous La Jolla beach's growing population of sea lions.

"No matter what is going on with water, we do rescue work, but it's rescue work only when if it's an advisory; They don't do patrols, they don't do the normal work," said San Diego Lifeguards Marine Safety Capt. James Gartland.

They're not the only ones getting sick, however.

Bob West said his most recent visit to the Cove almost cost him his leg. He told 10News he got a small cut swimming next to a rock, but two days later, he had a 104-degree fever and his leg was twice its size.

"I wasn't coherent, and I went to the emergency room and I was in the hospital nine days," West said.

West caught a fecal bacterial infection, and he is now swimming in pools.

While he's now heeding the warning signs, other San Diegans are not. On Thursday, 10News was there as many walked by the warning signs and swam in the water.

"I'm worried more about the pedestrians that drive out here," said Rod Watkins, who dove at the cove Thursday. "Parking is an art form in La Jolla on the weekend."

Gartland said the county is testing the water twice a week, but it isn't closed to the public.

West said even his swimming buddies aren't getting in.

"They swim at the [La Jolla] Shores now," he said. "They just don't trust what's going on at the Cove."