The rash of vaping-related illnesses spreading across the country is now here in Washington state.
State and county health officials announced Wednesday afternoon that a King County teen is the first person in Washington State to be diagnosed with the severe lung disease related to vaping.
“The patient had acute respiratory failure. He wasn’t able to breathe,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, with King County and Seattle Public Health.
Duchin said the young man is in his late teens and was in the intensive care unit at a King County hospital for four days, and in the hospital for five after getting sick from vaping.
Six people have died and there are more than 450 cases across 33 states. Washington makes the 34th state.
Health officials say the King County teen had been vaping for three years, and started before he could legally buy nicotine products.
The teen reported vaping nicotine with propylene glycol – a common ingredient in e-cigarettes – as well as saffron, a flavoring. But the Washington Department of Health didn’t know where the teen got the products, or if he used any other substances.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “The investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product that is linked to all cases. Many patients report using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”
The deaths have been in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. A sixth death was confirmed Tuesday in Kansas.
Symptoms of the vaping-related respiratory illness can develop over days or weeks, and include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and/ or fever.
Doctors say many who’ve gotten sick say they vaped products with THC. But others, like the King County teen, said they only used nicotine.
Some have bought vapes off the street while others got their products from licensed stores.
“This is an outbreak,” Duchin said. “We can’t say any particular product or combination of products is safe at this point,” he said.
That’s why they recommend people stop vaping any product until they figure out what’s making people sick.
“E-cigs and vaping are not safe. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
The Washington State Department of Health is looking for cases related to e-cigarettes or vaping — and think they will find more
“It’s quite possible this represents the tip of the iceberg,” Duchin said.
The King County teen has been discharged and is recovering at home. Health officials said they are not sure yet if he will make a full recovery.
Now Washington State says it’s urgently working to ban the e-cigarettes most appealing to kids.
“Governor Inslee asked last week to provide policy options to address, including a full ban on flavors. We are not waiting for the federal government but are moving ahead with the governor’s request,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the Washington State health officer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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