Collin Walker at Santa Barbara Vapor (Jan. 10, 2014) | Credit: Paul Wellman

Vaping is implicated in four Ventura County patients who suffered severe respiratory distress; Santa Barbara County so far has no similar reports. The Ventura patients have been diagnosed with a pneumonia that did not respond to antibiotics, and their tests were negative for pathogens, said Dr. Robert Levin, head of Ventura’s Public Health department. They all had been vaping.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), five patients have died in the following states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Oregon. As of September 6, the newly recognized lung disease has affected 450 people in 33 states and the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Levin noted that all patients reported diarrhea and vomiting and that their chest x-rays had a “ground glass” appearance — not usual symptoms of pneumonia. They were admitted to the hospital for respiratory support, and most improved with steroids. Three weeks ago, his department sent an alert to area physicians, explaining that the one factor identified so far among all patients was that they reported vaping nicotine, cannabis, or CBD oils.

Santa Barbara’s chief public health officer, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, said her office has been monitoring for vaping-associated pulmonary injury and will be collecting information on habits and products. Updates went out to health-care providers on reporting requirements on Monday, she said.

The roughly 60 cases in California had an average age of 27, Dr. Levin said, which closely matched the Ventura County cases. Though it is not known if a combination of chemicals, delivery systems, or health conditions contribute to the illness, the CDC recommends avoiding the use of e-cigarette products until more is understood.

Dr. Do-Reynoso warned to “be aware of sudden onset trouble with breathing,” as well as a shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, body aches, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. 


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