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Outbreak of lung injuries spotlights vaping dangers

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By the time the vaping victims were hospitalized, over half needed intensive care and about a third depended on ventilators to breathe.

Most of the patients in the study of Illinois and Wisconsin residents in July previously had visited doctors and clinics when they felt sick after vaping, but they were misdiagnosed, according to KHQ.com.

The realization that misdiagnosis is common with vaping-related illness comes as U.S. health officials are warning the public about an outbreak of lung injuries associated with the use of vaping products.

An investigation reveals something alarming

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local health departments are investigating the vaping-related illnesses that have struck in every state but Alaska. These illnesses have also occurred in the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory.

As of Oct. 29, 2019, the deaths of 37 people who used vaping products had been confirmed by the CDC in 24 states.

The CDC and FDA have yet to identify the cause of the lung injuries in these cases and the only commonality is that all of the patients reported using vaping products. Many different substances and product sources remain under investigation.

Vaping is the inhaling of aerosolized liquid, or vapor, from a hand-held, battery-powered device or from an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette.

The liquids that these devices heat up for ingestion as vapor are often flavored — everything from banana and cinnamon to tea and Fruit Loops — and users can choose some with ingredients that include nicotine or marijuana.

Vaping is often taken up by cigarette smokers trying to quit, as the liquids available for purchase can contain only small amounts of nicotine or none at all.

Young vapers are most at risk

The popularity of vaping among young people has become a concern. The CDC said that in 2016, about eight in 10 middle school and high school students—more than 20 million youths—said they had seen e-cigarette advertising.

“There is some evidence” that young people who use e-cigarettes could be more likely than others to graduate to smoking cigarettes, according to the CDC.

While the exact cause of the vaping-related lung injuries is unknown, what is known is that vaping is harmful to young people. That’s especially the case if the liquid that's being heated into vapor contains nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain, according to the CDC.

The misdiagnosis of vaping-related illnesses adds to the problem. NBC News reported that these patients tend to be misdiagnosed with either bronchitis or a viral disease and report feeling lousy for a few days.

In the study of Illinois and Wisconsin vaping patients, 72 percent had been seen in outpatient settings before having to be admitted to the hospital later for respiratory problems. About 58 percent were placed in intensive care. Nearly a third underwent intubation — placement of a tube into the trachea to maintain an open airway — and mechanical ventilation.

What are the danger signs to watch out for?

Most vaping patients experience shortness of breath, fever, cough, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. All have said they recently vaped either tetrahydrocannabinol, known commonly as THC (the agent in marijuana that produces a high), nicotine or a combination of the two.

When treatments for the misdiagnosed conditions fail, patients' symptoms worsen to the point where they have trouble breathing, forcing them to seek emergency help.

With misdiagnosis common with vaping-related illness, officials warn, work continues to identify a brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the illness.

Contact The Deratany Firm in Chicago today if you or a loved one was injured by the misdiagnosis of a vaping-related illness.

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