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Snohomish Health District Media Releases

Posted on: September 23, 2019

First Case of Lung Illness in Snohomish County Associated with Vaping

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – The Snohomish Health District has identified the first case of vaping-related lung illness in a Snohomish County resident.

A female in her twenties was admitted to a Snohomish County hospital in August with shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. The patient has since been released and is recovering. The patient reported vaping products that were purchased from legal retailers, and they did not appear to have been tampered with or modified.

Snohomish Health District staff are working to gather any additional information and samples of substances that may have contributed to the patient’s illness. The investigation into the specific vaping devices and products used is ongoing.

Public health investigators identified this case following a review of the hospital discharge database. They are continuing to work with the Washington State Department of Health to investigate other possible cases identified by hospital database queries and other surveillance mechanisms.

This is the first recognized case in Snohomish County detected under heightened surveillance stemming from the nationwide outbreak of vaping-associated lung illnesses. However, it is likely that other cases occurred prior to this one but were not recognized as such. It is possible that additional recent and future cases will be detected with the increased monitoring and reporting. 

The relatedness of this case to the larger national outbreak is uncertain, as is the cause (or causes) of that outbreak. This case brings the current total to six vaping-related lung illnesses in Washington State. As of September 19, 530 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette products have been reported to CDC from 38 states and one U.S. territory. Seven deaths have been confirmed. 

All patients have a reported history of e-cigarette or vapor product use, and the cause appears to not be an infectious contaminant (i.e., it is not a germ). While no other cause has been determined as of yet, it is conceivable that multiple factors or causes may be at play. Meanwhile, this outbreak highlights health care providers’ and public health officials’ ongoing concern over the safety of using e-cigarettes and related vaping materials. 

“Those who don’t vape shouldn’t start, and those who do vape should strongly consider quitting,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, interim health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “The safety of these products is uncertain at best, and their contents are not regulated by consumer protection agencies. Just because it might be less hazardous than inhaling burning tobacco leaves doesn’t mean that it is safe.”

People that use vape or THC products should seek medical attention if they experience coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, nausea or fatigue. Healthcare providers should also contact the Snohomish Health District at 425.339.5278 to report cases of unexplained lung disease in people who have used e-cigarettes or vaped in the past 90 days.

If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, you can contact your doctor or call the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for access to safe and proven methods. Trained professionals will help you set up a quit plan, provide quit help information, and provide nicotine replacement if eligible.

More information on vaping-related lung illness:

The Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. To read more about the District and for important health information, visit www.snohd.org.

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