SRHD investigating three possible vaping-related lung illness cases

The Spokane Regional Health District is investigating three possible cases of vaping-related lung illness.

Two patients are Spokane County residents and one is from the Republic area.

Dr. Bob Lutz, the Spokane County health officer with the regional health district, said the patients are between the ages of 18 and 35. He did not disclose their gender.

“They were all hospitalized for a number of days. They all required close evaluation and monitoring, but thankfully they were able to make it out of the hospital OK,” he said.

SRHD said the three local cases have been reported to the Washington State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control.

“The next step is actually contacting and talking with the individuals, talking with the individuals parents potentially, talking with the individuals physicians or providers to see if they meet all the criteria and if they do, they would be considered a confirmed case,” he explained.

If confirmed, this would bring the number to four people in the state to have a vaping-related lung illness.

On Wednesday, a separate case of the vaping-related lung illness was reported in King County. The patient was a young adult male who has recovered since being hospitalized in August.

“What I want people to know is that vaping is not safe,” Lutz said. “I think we have had this sort of, at some level, sort of a blase approach to it that well it’s safer than cigarettes. We don’t know that.”

As patients come in to see physicians, he’s asking doctors to not just ask if their patient smokes or uses tobacco – but to ask if they are also vaping.

“There are people that go undiagnosed who present with symptoms that are now, we’re having to look at more closely,” he said.

The symptoms of a respiratory disease linked to vaping could look like bronchitis or pneumonia – but there’s a little more than that.

“The challenge is that these individuals are being complicated by having abnormal x-rays or CAT scans and then give a history of vaping,” he explained.

As more and more people are becoming sick across the nation, he said it’s like an experiment.

“It took how many years for us to identify the risks associated with tobacco? I think unfortunately, what’s happening is it’s a natural experiment. It’s an experiment on youth, it’s an experiment on people that are vaping. Because they believe it’s purported to be safer? We don’t know,” he said.

The CDC and Food and Drug Administration launched a multi-state investigation regarding the outbreak of severe lung disease associated with vaping devices and e-cigarette products in August.

The CDC investigation is still ongoing and has not identified a definitive cause, though health officials said all reported cases involve a history of using vaping devices.

Earlier this week, two cases of respiratory disease linked to vaping were reported in Idaho. Those patients are currently recovering.

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