Doctor: Knowledge of vaping-related illness symptoms key in diagnosis


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With an increasing number of vaping-related illnesses reported nationwide, experts are working around the clock to pinpoint which vaping products are causing lung injuries.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 1,080 lung injuries were reported in 48 states and one U.S. territory, as well as 18 confirmed deaths in 15 states. Most of those cases involve patients under the age of 35.

Doctor Walter Donat with Brigham and Women’s Pulmonary Associates at Care New England said he’s frightened by the number of illnesses reported in such a short period of time.

“When you see such a catastrophic illness in young people who have healthy lungs from vaping it sends a shudder down your spine,” Donat said.

Donat said treating patients can be difficult since lung injury cases can look like an infection, auto-immune disease or pneumonia.

Since X-Rays and CT imaging won’t always show specific signs of lung injury from vaping, Donat said knowledge of the symptoms among the pulmonary care community is key in the diagnosis.

“There’s no one element that will be a diagnostic, so it has to be diagnostic and heightened level of suspicion with a compatible clinical presentation that will help doctors make a diagnosis,” Donat explained.

Upon studying the cases, Donat believes the cases are related to an inhalation injury.

“Some people describe it as a chemical burn in the lungs,” he said.

Donat added that the long-term impacts of vaping are still unknown.

“It took 50 years to figure out cigarettes are harmful to your health and cause cancer,” Donat said. “We haven’t had 50 years of vaping to figure that out.”

The outbreak of vaping-related illnesses prompted Gov. Gina Raimondo to issue a temporary ban the sale of flavored vaping products statewide. The 120-day ban went into effect last week.

Raimondo’s ban is different from the executive order recently issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who chose to immediately ban all vaping products from stores for at least four months.

So far, two vaping-related illnesses have been reported in Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, nine vaping-related illnesses have been reported, including one death.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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