Austin officials investigate first possible case of vaping-related illness

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Public Health Department is investigating a possible case of vaping-related illness in the city, a public health official told KXAN Wednesday.

If confirmed, this case would join the hundreds of cases of lung disease reported around the country. The Centers for Disease Control says as of last week, there have been 380 cases reported in 36 states and seven people have died.

Austin Public Health Dr. Mark Escott, says they are trying to rule out all other causes before confirming vaping as the cause of the illness, but APH is recommending people stop using e-cigarettes.

“I think it’s important for us to note that they are not known to be safe,” says Austin Public Health Dr. Mark Escott.

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Based on the recommendations of the CDC, the Austin Public Health Department sent a memo to Austin City Council Tuesday, informing city leaders that they are working with the Texas State Department of Health Services to monitor possible cases in the Austin area. The memo did not mention any cases of the illness in the Austin area.

Many of the reported cases involve young patients. The median age of people with vaping-related injuries is 19, according a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

While officials don’t yet know if the illness is definitely caused by vaping or e-cigarette use, they say it is the common link in all the illnesses reported so far. As a result, they urge people to quit vaping as they investigate further.

“Previous APH efforts have included the creation of a flyer on electronic cigarettes and an educational presentation for school administrators, staff, and parents,” the memo reads. “The Community Services division of APD will include electronic cigarette presentations at the upcoming Austin Youth Council meeting, the quarterly training for Peer Health Educators and the Austin/Travis County Adolescent Health Collaborative.”

Patients have reported coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain as well as nausea and diarrhea, according to the CDC. Most patients have used e-cigarettes containing THC products, but the CDC says some patients have reported using only nicotine.

Escott, the APH doctor, says the oils used in vaping makes them different from traditional cigarettes. They can deposit particles of fat deep in the lungs which can trigger a reaction, and ultimately cause the lungs to fail.

“Our bodies aren’t made to handle fats in the lungs.”

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