Health officials warn of vaping-related lung disease


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Health officials suspect vaping is related to a serious respiratory illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating more than 150 cases of severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes or vape in 16 states.

The cases were reported in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

“We expect to find cases of this illness in Tennessee,” said Tennessee Department of Health State Epidemiologist Tim Jones. “We’re alerting Tennessee health care providers to be on the lookout for patients with severe respiratory symptoms who report vaping in the weeks before they got sick.”

According to TDH, the disease is marked by worsening cough, shortness of breath and fatigue over days or weeks. Other symptoms may include fever, chest pain, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

TDH said most cases so far have been among adolescents and young adults.

“A number have had severe illness requiring oxygen, types of mechanical ventilation and a long stay in the intensive care unit,” said Sullivan County Health Department Regional Medical Director Dr. Andrew Stephen May.

“It’s not associated with infection. When we look at them they’ve not had bacteria, viruses or flu that we can detect,” May continued. “Also, we’re finding that they respond better to steroids rather than antibiotics and that tells us it’s an inflammatory type of reaction inside the lungs.”

The CDC said all patients impacted so far have reported vaping. Investigators are still trying to figure out if a specific compound or vaping product is the source.

In a statement, Tennessee Smoke-Free Association Executive Director Dimi Agrafiotis said:

“First and foremost, vape products are for adult smokers looking to quit the deadly habit— not teenagers experimenting with unknown substances. Public health officials need to investigate all of the facts surrounding these incidents before assigning a blanket condemnation against industry-standard vape products.”

Tennessee Smoke-Free Association Executive Director Dimi Agrafiotis

As questions remain, May recommends prevention. “If you don’t vape, don’t start, if you don’t smoke, don’t start and now is as good a time as any to quit both.”

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