Health

Vaping-related illness cases rise in Iowa

13 with history of vaping report respiratory disease, says public health

Close up on a man exhaling vapor from an electronic cigarette
Close up on a man exhaling vapor from an electronic cigarette

The number of Iowans falling ill with a vaping-related respiratory disease has risen to 13, state public health officials announced Friday.

Cases of severe respiratory illness among individuals with a history of using e-cigarettes has been on the rise across the state in the past two weeks, increasing from the seven cases announced by the Iowa Department of Public Health officials on Aug. 30.

Iowa is among several states that have reported these respiratory illnesses among teenagers and young adults these past several weeks, reaching a total of 380 confirmed and probable cases nationwide as of Wednesday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, six deaths have been confirmed in relation to this outbreak in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon.

Reported symptoms include cough, dizziness, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, chest pain and worsening difficulty breathing, sometimes requiring intensive care.

The outbreak of respiratory illnesses remains under investigation by state and national public health officials. Although all affected individuals reported a history of using e-cigarette products, the exact cause of this illness is unclear.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, a variety of vaping products are associated with reported cases, but “THC has been commonly associated with these illnesses.” In Iowa, 12 of the reported 13 cases included a history of using vape products with THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.

The CDC also confirmed that the majority of patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC.

In Iowa, 22.4 percent of 11th grade students reported current use of e-cigarettes in the 2018 Iowa Youth Survey. In addition, 8.3 percent of eighth-grade students and 2.4 percent of sixth-grade students said they currently used e-cigarette products.

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, one in five Americans under the age of 30 vapes “at least occasionally” and about 9 percent of all adults in the U.S. reported they regularly or occasionally use vaping products.

State public health officials said anyone who uses e-cigarettes should not buy such products off the street and should not modify them or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

Regardless of the ongoing outbreak, youth are discouraged by public health officials from using e-cigarette and other vaping products, as the long-term effects of these products are unknown.

The Iowa Department of Public Health states any patient with a history of vaping who is experiencing breathing problems should seek medical care.

State public health officials also are encouraging health care providers to ask patients with respiratory illnesses about their history of vaping.

Health care providers should report any patient with a history of vaping or e-cigarette use who contracts a severe respiratory illness to the Iowa Department of Public Health at 1-800-362-2736.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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