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Vaping-related illness reported for first time in North Dakota

Vaping-related illness reported for first time in North Dakota

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The North Dakota Department of Health has received the state's first report of a severe respiratory illness associated with the use of a vaping device or an e-cigarette.

North Dakota joins 25 other states that have reported more than 200 potential cases of severe respiratory illness from e-cigarettes among teenagers and adults, the Health Department said Wednesday.

Reported symptoms of severe respiratory illness include cough, fatigue, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Some patients have required medical treatment and supplemental oxygen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As people call in with these reports, we will continue to gather data in an effort to find answers and linkages," State Epidemiologist Tracy Miller said. "We're working closely with the CDC on the national outbreak."

No other details about the patient, including whether he or she was hospitalized, will be released to the public "because of the ongoing investigation," according to Health Department spokeswoman Nicole Peske.

In all reported cases nationwide, patients have reported e-cigarette use, according to the CDC. Some patients have reported using e-cigarettes containing cannabinoid products, such as THC. To date, no single substance or e-cigarette product has been linked to the outbreak.

Oregon health officials announced Tuesday that the state’s first respiratory illness death associated with vaping involved the use of an e-cigarette containing cannabis purchased from a cannabis dispensary. Last month, health officials announced a lung disease death tied to vaping in Illinois.

North Dakota health officials have not specifically cautioned medical marijuana patients to be wary about using vaping devices to consume the drug.

"Determining what has caused the issues related to vaping will take a lot of time and research," Peske said. "If patients are concerned, there are other products available for purchase at the dispensary, and patients can discuss the options with dispensary personnel."

State health officials are asking health care providers to watch for cases of severe respiratory illness and ask patients about e-cigarette use. People with symptoms should seek medical care promptly.

"Individuals are discouraged from using vaping and e-cigarette products of any kind as the long-term health impacts are unknown," said Neil Charvat, director of the state Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

People experiencing symptoms can call the Health Department at 866-207-2880 or visit ndhealth.gov to take a confidential survey.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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