Ohio investigating 6 cases of vapers with pulmonary disease

Health officials said Friday they are are investigating reports of six Ohioans with severe pulmonary illness after using e-cigarettes, or vaping.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are reports of severe respiratory illnesses in at least 16 states, mostly among teenagers and young adults.

MORE: FDA, local schools take steps as teen e-cigarette use surges

Ohio Department of Health said the investigations into Ohio’s six possible cases are just beginning and no additional information is available at this time.

The state has issued an alert to health care providers asking them to report all suspected cases of serious pulmonary illness where the cause is unclear with a history of vaping to local or state public health officials for investigation.

Patient respiratory symptoms have included cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, according to CDC. In some cases, symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks and required hospitalization. Other symptoms reported by some patients included fever, chest pain, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea.

Vaping facts & figures

3.62 millionU.S. middle and high school students using e-cigarettes

21 percent: High school students who used e-cigarettes in 2018

11.7 percent: High school students who used e-cigarettes in 2017

Source: U.S. FDA

“We are seeing a tremendous increase in vaping among our youth, which is a public health crisis,” ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton said. “There is a perception that vaping is safe, and these reports of serious pulmonary illness linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use show that this is simply not true.”

Besides nicotine, the Ohio Department of Health said that 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.

Ohio lawmakers in July increased the legal age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21, following 18 other states and the District of Columbia.

More than 3.6 million American middle and high school students said they used e-cigarettes in 2018, up 1.5 million from the previous year, according to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students said they used e-cigarettes within the last 30 days during the 2018 survey — an increase Lebanon schools superintendent Todd Yohey said he’s seen first-hand, sparking a policy change last year that increased the consequences for smoking and vaping at his school and enhanced enforcement.

Information about vaping and risks associated with e-cigarette use is available on the ODH website at www.odh.ohio.gov and the CDC website at www.cdc.gov. 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).

MORE: Should vaping be taxed like cigarettes? Some Ohio advocates think so

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also is working with CDC and state health officials to gather information on any products or substances used and providing technical and laboratory assistance.

FDA encourages the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected tobacco- or e-cigarette-related health or product issues to the FDA online using the Safety Reporting Portal at safetyreporting.hhs.gov.‎

The CDC said on Wednesday that while some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to know what is causing the illnesses.

In a health alert to providers, Ohio Department of Health said patients have reported vaping in the weeks to months prior to illness and many have acknowledged recent use of THC-containing products. But no specific product has been identified by all cases, nor has any product been conclusively linked to this clinical syndrome. An investigation has been initiated with interviews of patients to further study the issue.

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