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State health department investigates lung disease possibly linked to vaping

(Adobe Stock Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – Could vaping be behind several cases of severe lung disease in the state of Utah?  Officials with the Utah Department of Health say five people have needed to be hospitalized, recently, and some of them needed help to breathe.

It’s a disease that isn’t usually seen in people who smoke regular tobacco.  Utah Department of Health Epidemiologist Keegan McCaffrey says, “Pneumonitis is swelling of the lungs.”  Symptoms include heavy cough, fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath.  McCaffrey says it looks similar to pneumonia, but, these cases of pneumonitis were not spread by any kind of infection.

“We’ve ruled out these cases for infectious disease,” he says.

All of the people hospitalized all have one  thing in common.  All of them have told their doctors that they either use e-cigs or inhale something else, like marijuana or CBD oil.

“With these severe cases of pneumonitis, the people have reported vaping to us, but we don’t know it that’s what caused it, yet.  This is an investigation that’s ongoing,” McCaffrey says.

Plus, these patients have other problems beside their breathing.

McCaffrey says, “Our cases have also shown gastrointestinal distress, so, vomiting and nausea followed by these really severe respiratory [symptoms] like cough or sometimes even fever.”

State health officials say anyone who experiences chest pain or shortness of breath after vaping should call their doctors.  Plus, they’re promoting their efforts to help smokers and vapers quit.  Tobacco Prevention and Control Media Coordinator Ryan Bartlett says some e-cig devices give out as much 20 times the nicotine levels of regular cigarettes.

“It’s the nicotine that’s the highly addictive substance.  Sometimes, it can be as addictive as heroin.”

Utah isn’t the only state seeing this kind of problem.  Officials with UDOH say there are similar cases of pneumonitis in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.