Idaho public health officials have confirmed two cases of serious respiratory disease among people who use e-cigarettes or other vaping devices.
State and local public health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration are investigating severe pulmonary disease among people who use these devices with 380 confirmed cases reported to date in 36 states. Six deaths have been reported from other states.
Patients have had symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath and/or chest pain that has grown worse over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Other symptoms may include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. The reports received from Idaho providers are among teenagers and young adults.
“Public health has never considered vaping a safe alternative to smoking combustible tobacco products, however this cluster of cases in various states has raised the awareness that the products that are used in the vaping devices may contain substances that consumers may not be aware of,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, the Deputy State Epidemiologist for Idaho.
According to a news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, many teens have dangerous misperceptions that vaping is harmless. Most vaping products contain nicotine. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory, attention and harm the developing brain. Using nicotine in adolescence can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.
“Vaping should not be a behavior that children are engaged in,” said Turner. “Pregnant women should absolutely not be using nicotine.”
Turner warns adults who choose to vape or use e-cigarettes to not buy products off the streets and to never mix different substances together. She explains that mixing chemicals is extremely dangerous and can cause reactions especially when they are vaporized.
Clinicians have been asked to be on alert for signs of serious respiratory illness among patients who recently used vaping products, including e-cigarettes, and report any cases to public health officials as the nationwide investigation continues.
“This is not just a cough and feeling unwell, these are serious illnesses that are sending relatively healthy people, who are younger, to the hospital and they are in there for a few days receiving treatment for severe respiratory distress,” Turner said.
Turner said three more cases are being reviewed to determine if they are also suffering as a result of vaping and e-cigarettes.