Minnesota Dept. of Health says 'severe lung injury' cases might be related to vaping

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(SAINT PAUL, Minn.) -- The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is asking health care providers to be on alert for lung diseases related to vaping and e-cigarette use among young adults after a Minnesota hospital reported several “severe” cases.

Children’s Minnesota hospital has reported four cases of “severe lung injury” in the Minneapolis area that it says are similar to cases recently reported in Wisconsin and Illinois. The hospital also said it is “too early to say whether they are connected.”

The patients spent several weeks in the hospital and some were admitted to the intensive care unit for symptoms including shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms reported by some patients included headache, dizziness and chest pain.

“We are encouraging providers and parents to be on the lookout for vaping as a cause for unexplained breathing problems and lung injury and disease," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and MDH medical director.

“These cases are extremely complex to diagnose, as symptoms can mimic a common infection yet can lead to severe complications and extended hospitalization,” Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota, added. “Medical attention is essential; respiratory conditions can continue to decline without proper treatment.”

E-cigarette use is “unsafe” for kids, teens and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In part, this is because the nicotine present in most of them is addictive and can harm parts of the young adult brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control, all of which are still developing until about age 25, according to the CDC.

E-cigarettes, vapes, e-pipes and other vaping products are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale aerosolized liquid. The aerosol in these products, the MDH says, also contains harmful chemicals like ultrafine particles; oil; heavy metals, like nickel, tin and lead; and other cancer-causing chemicals.

E-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students between 2017 and 2018, according to the CDC. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students, said that they currently used e-cigarettes, the CDC said.

In December 2018, the surgeon general released an advisory on e-cigarette use, calling it an “epidemic” among youth.

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

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