Health

Vaping-related illness seen nationally also reported among younger Iowans

Four cases still under investigation, state public health officials say

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

Respiratory illnesses related to vaping have been reported among young adults in Iowa, state public health officials said Thursday.

Four cases of respiratory illness in young adults — those in their early to mid-20s — with a history of vaping have reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health in recent weeks, according to a news release from officials.

The cases originate across the state, but all four patients reported vaping before they experienced worsening respiratory symptoms — including coughing and trouble breathing — that were not explained by any infectious disease, such as influenza, said Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati.

“These patients don’t seem to have that,” she said. “That’s why its notable they report a history of vaping.”

Public health officials still are investigating these cases, Pedati said.

The illnesses were not tied to a specific vaping product, public health officials said.

However. three patients reported use of vaping products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

On Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 153 cases of possible severe respiratory illness associated with e-cigarette use in 16 states, including Iowa. These cases were reported between June 28 and Aug. 20.

CDC officials cautioned investigators have not identified the cause, and have not identified a specific product or compound that is linked to all cases. However, in many of these cases, patients reported recent use of THC products in e-cigarettes. Cannabis is considered a controlled substance under federal law.

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

Pedati said to get to the cause of these respiratory illnesses, public health officials are encouraging health care providers to ask about vaping and e-cigarette use among their patients, particularly those who present these symptoms.

“We are asking health care providers to look out for cases of severe respiratory illness among teenagers and young adults, and ask about recent vaping and e-cigarette use,” Pedati said in the news release.

Providers are encouraged to report cases of severe respiratory illness in patients with a history of vaping or e-cigarette use to the Iowa Department of Public Health at 1-800-362-2736.

State public health officials are also discouraging teenagers and young adults from using vaping and e-cigarette products of any kind, “as the long-term health impacts for youth using these products are unknown.”

Patients with a history of vaping who experience breathing problems should seek medical care.

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

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