State warns of vaping dangers

Man smoking E-Cigarette indoor.

State health officials issued a health alert Aug. 27 for lung injuries associated with vaping, with many of the issues involving use of vaping cannabis compounds.

The warning came in a week when health officials across the U.S. issued similar warnings.

From June through August, 38 cases of vaping-associated pulmonary injury requiring hospitalization have been reported to the California Department of Public Health. “Most patients report vaping cannabis compounds THC and/or CBD, and some patients also report vaping nicotine products, although the exact cause of illness is not yet known,” the department said in a statement.

The health department reported that as of Aug 27, 24 men and 12 women, age 14-70 with a median age of 27, were diagnosed with vaping-associated pulmonary injuries.  The patients were from 13 counties. No cases have been reported in Santa Clara County.

The department said the symptoms can initially mimic common pulmonary diagnoses like pneumonia, but said patients typically do not respond to antibiotic therapy.

Physicians in California and at least 23 other states have documented more than 200 cases of acute pulmonary disease associated with vaping over the past three months.

Some patients in California have reported using vaping products that they purchased from unlicensed, unregulated entities. 

Health officials said that patients typically come to hospitals with a cough, difficulty breathing, fever and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. In many cases, the initial diagnosis was presumed to be infectious, but no evidence of infection or other process to explain the pulmonary disease was found, officials said.

All cases in California have been hospitalized, with most requiring respiratory support with supplemental oxygen, high-flow oxygen or bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP). At least 10 patients had respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. No deaths have been reported to date in California. 

Local health departments are collecting information on vaping habits and products used from patients who are suspected of having vaping-associated pulmonary injury. 

Physicians who identify cases similar to those described above are asked to report the cases to their local health department. State health officials are asking local health departments to report new cases or direct any inquiries to the health department’s duty officer, [email protected] or (916) 328-3605, and to collect any vaping devices or supplies from patients and provide them to the state for testing.

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