BY ANDY MILLER/Special to the NTH
Georgia has joined other states in investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness that may be linked to vaping.
Illinois health officials Friday announced the death of an adult who had vaped and later developed a severe respiratory illness. This is the first such death reported amid a growing number of lung illnesses nationally that physicians say could be connected to e-cigarettes.
The CDC said it’s aware of about 190 cases of severe lung disease in 22 states that could be caused by vaping.
Vaping is the use of e-cigarette devices, which mimic cigarettes but produce inhalable vapors instead of smoke. The devices are marketed as alternatives to smoking, but health experts say they cause problems of their own.
The Georgia Department of Public Health announced Friday that it’s investigating possible cases of severe respiratory illness linked to vaping.
Symptoms, which worsen over time, include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Many patients nationally acknowledged a history of vaping nicotine and/or products containing THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana that makes people “high.”
The CDC and state investigators have not identified any specific product or compound linked to all cases.
Amid the lack of information, health officials said they are scrambling to find common themes to the respiratory problems, the New York Times reported. “More information is needed to know what is causing these illnesses,” said Ileana Arias, a CDC official.
A disproportionate share of the cases appear to be happening in Illinois, where there have been 22 confirmed illnesses, according to Dr. Jennifer Layden, the chief medical officer and state epidemiologist at the Illinois Department of Public Health. She said officials were still investigating the patient’s death, the Times reported.
Here in Georgia, Public Health has requested that health care providers ask patients with severe respiratory illness whether they have used devices for vaping nicotine and/or THC. The agency also is asking the providers to report possible cases to the Georgia Poison Center.
Patients with a history of vaping who are experiencing breathing problems should seek medical care, Public Health said.
The vaping-connected respiratory illnesses have also occurred in California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, USA Today reported. Similar cases have also been reported in three additional states – Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee, according to NBC News. Wisconsin has seen at least 15 cases, including vaping-related lung illnesses among older people.
E-cigarettes and other vaping devices are not safe for youths, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products, according to the CDC.
“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement, CNN reported.