Ohio health officials investigating reports of severe pulmonary illness after vaping

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Health is investigating six cases of severe pulmonary illness possibly linked to vaping.

The investigations come after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out an alert connecting more than 150 cases in 16 states to vaping. The six in Ohio are in addition to the more than 150 around the country.

“There’s been a cluster of individuals who have experienced this,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health. “Epidemiologists go back and try to find the traits that are in common with these individuals. And one thing that has been in common with 100% of them is vaping.”

According to the CDC, most cases involve teens or young adults.

Patient respiratory symptoms have included cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. In some cases, symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks and required hospitalization, according to ODH.

Other symptoms reported by some patients included fever, chest pain, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea, according to ODH.

“It’s not common to see severe pulmonary illness in that age. It’s not surprising there’s a predilection in that age because there is an increased rate of vaping in that age group,” Hurst said.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe in can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including cancer-causing chemicals; heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead; volatile organic compounds which can adversely impact health; ultrafine particles that can reach deep into lungs; and flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical used to give butter-like and other flavors that is linked to serious lung disease, according to ODH.

The ages of the people involved in the Ohio cases have not been released. 

Now the Ohio Department of Health is reaching out to health providers statewide. It’s asking health providers to report serious cases of pulmonary illness where the cause is unknown and there is a history of vaping. 

“We know that individuals are becoming seriously ill associated with vaping,” Hurst said. “We need to understand that better so we can help prevent it and we can help respond to it in ways so it doesn’t cause any health care problems in individuals.”

Hurst also anticipates the number of cases around the state and country will grow. 

Information about vaping and risks associated with e-cigarette use is available on the ODH website and the CDC website.

Information about resources to help people quit smoking and vaping are available on the ODH website, including the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

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