Kentucky health officials issue warning about vaping-related illness

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is monitoring a growing number of cases of severe pulmonary disease related to e-cigarette use or vaping. (Source: MGN)
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Kentucky health officials are urging people who vape to use caution as the number of reported cases of severe lung injuries rises.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is monitoring a growing number of cases of severe pulmonary disease related to e-cigarette use or vaping.

There are 25 cases under investigation in Kentucky as of Oct. 4.

With at least 1,080 confirmed or probable cases across the country, Kentucky officials say they are working closely with "healthcare providers, local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and other states to gather information about this outbreak."

There have also been 18 confirmed deaths in 15 states.

"These investigations are ongoing and have not identified a cause, but all reported cases involve a history of using e-cigarette products," the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services stated in a press release. "Two of the cases have been ruled out, four are probable, and one case has been confirmed."

Health officials say the confirmed case involved a man in his 30s. That man reported he vaped with nicotine, but no THC or synthetic cannabinoid.

"As the investigation into the cause of severe lung injury associated with vaping continues, we recommend you refrain from using e-cigarettes, or any vaping product," said Dr. Angela Dearinger, commissioner for the Department for Public Health.

According to Kentucky health officials, most of the cases of vaping-related illnesses across the country are among kids and young adults.

"It is of critical importance that we keep these devices out of the hands of young people. While we already know the negative outcomes of smoking, the short and long term effects of e-cigarettes is relatively unknown," said Adam Meier, Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "What we do know is that these products contain nicotine, often at high levels, which is highly addictive and habit-forming, and may lead to a lifetime of use. What we are also finding anecdotally is that young people are more likely to use black market products, illicit drugs or other harmful substances which are often a contributing factor to the acute respiratory illnesses we are seeing associated with these devices."

Patients with the severe pulmonary disease have symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some have also reported fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, chest pain, and loss of appetite. The symptoms tend to worsen over the next several days or weeks before the patient is admitted to the hospital.

"Some adults have used e-cigarettes to attempt to quit smoking," the press release states."However, e-cigarettes are not currently approved by the FDA as an aid to quit smoking. Furthermore, youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes. An estimated 20.8% of high school students have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days."