New data released by the federal government Friday show Utah ahead of all neighboring states in the number of cases of a dangerous new condition that some users of e-cigarettes are contracting.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show 30 to 49 reported cases of the vaping-related illness in Utah. Most neighboring states report one to nine cases, and the only other state in the West with more cases in California, the most populous state in the country.
Intermountain Healthcare pulmonologist Dr. Dixie Harris said her hospital system had seen 48 cases as of Friday morning. “We have several patients that have been in the ICUs,” she said, adding: “If we didn’t put them on life support, then they would not be here with us.”
One concern for doctors is that vape users may not recognize that their flu-like symptoms are a far more sinister condition, which is so new that there’s no consensus on the name.
The reason for Utah’s higher numbers is unclear. The pulmonologist said she was among the first to recognize the pattern in early August.
The hospitals in the state may simply be more consistently reporting cases to the state and to the federal government. “We’re starting to go into flu season,” Harris said. “Well, these cases look exactly like the flu.”
Symptoms of lung injury include body aches, including backaches and headaches, as well as nausea, vomiting, fever, shortness of breath and coughing.
People who’ve vaped in the past 90 days and have flu-like symptoms are urged to see a doctor in order to be diagnosed.
The majority of the cases 80-90% by Harris’ estimate are associated with THC cartridges, many of them bought illegally. However, some patients who’ve purchased their vaping products at established stores have contracted the lung injury, she said.
Dr. Harris and the CDC recommend stopping the use of e-cigarette and vaping products while experts work to determine the source of the outbreak. No specific product is tied to all the cases. Twelve people have died from the illness in other states.