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MDH warns of severe lung disease possibly related to vaping

Updated: August 13, 2019 06:38 PM

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is warning residents to be on alert for cases of severe lung disease potentially related to vaping and e-cigarette use among teens and young adults.

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MDH said Children's Minnesota has reported four cases of severe lung injury in the metro area potentially related to vaping. The department said the cases are similar to cases recently reported in Wisconsin and Illinois, although it's still unclear if they are connected.

RELATED: Study suggests e-cigarette flavorings may pose heart risk

In Minnesota, symptoms have resulted in hospitalizations lasting multiple weeks, with some patients being admitted to the intensive care unit, MDH said.

Clinical signs in Minnesota cases include shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea. Others symptoms reported include headache, dizziness and chest pain.

MDH said it is working to learn more about the cases after receiving the reports Thursday from Children's Minnesota. Both nicotine and marijuana-based products were reportedly used in the cases, and health officials are asking providers to look for similar cases and report them.

RELATED: Alarming number of Minnesota teens getting 'nic sick' from e-cigarettes

According to MDH, people with a history of vaping who are experiencing lung symptoms should seek clinical care and should avoid using e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

The U.S. Surgeon General calls teen e-cigarette use an epidemic. Locally, the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that nearly 20% of high-school students use e-cigarettes and 40% have tried them, MDH said. E-cigarette use has surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product category among youth. 34.7% of high school students and 15.8% of middle school students who currently use e-cigarettes have used an e-cigarette for recreational marijuana, THC or hash oil, or THC wax at least once in their lifetime, MDH said..

"We are deeply concerned by the severe cases of lung injury associated with vaping that we are currently seeing," said Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children's Minnesota. "These cases are extremely complex to diagnose, as symptoms can mimic a common infection yet can lead to severe complications and extended hospitalization. Medical attention is essential; respiratory conditions can continue to decline without proper treatment."

"There are still many unanswered questions, but the health harms emerging from the current epidemic of youth vaping in Minnesota continue to increase," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and MDH medical director. "We are encouraging providers and parents to be on the look-out for vaping as a cause for unexplained breathing problems and lung injury and disease."

You can learn more about e-cigarettes and other vaping products here.

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