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County’s top doctor: Stop vaping, amid mysterious disease

Don’t start using vaping products — at all. That’s the message from King County’s Public Health Director Dr. Duchin.

The warning comes after a string of deaths related to a severe lung illness has struck users of vaping products, a nicotine delivery device that mimics smoking. Some also use the devices to consume marijuana products.

“There’s a lot unknown,” Dr. Duchin said. “But what we do know is there is a very severe illness that is being linked to e-cigarette use.”

“There have been hundreds of cases of severe lung disease associated with e-cigarette use reported around the country,” he said. “…. I think it will be a while before we have a good grip on whether this is a tip of the iceberg phenomenon or if this is an outbreak that is due to one or two products. I think we are in the very early stages of understanding how big this problem really is.”

King County issues warning about vaping

“This is a potentially deadly problem,” he added. “How deadly? We won’t know until the full extent of the problem is well defined and we have a better understanding.”

Mysterious vaping illness

Duchin said that more information is becoming known about the mysterious disease as state agencies, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control investigate. He said health professionals are confident that the problem is related to vaping, and there is suspicion that there may be a toxin involved. But it is unknown exactly what about vaping is increasing risks. The illness can come on hours, days, or even weeks after vaping. It is unclear if the problem is developing with heavy, light, or new users.

“It appears that the vast majority of people suffering from this severe lung damage have vaped with THC products, or other cannabinoids, CBD type oils or products and it’s suspected that many of these products may have been obtained on the street, not from manufacturers,” Duchin said. “But that is not certain. There have been several reports from around the country from people who have reported just using nicotine products that have developed this lung injury.”

More than 200 people across 25 states have reportedly been hit by the illness this summer.

Most recently, a patient in Oregon died from the illness, according to the New York Times. Officials said that the patient was otherwise healthy, but that the lung illness overtook them very quickly. They were put on a ventilator before they died in July. They also reportedly used a product purchased at a legal marijuana dispensary. One other confirmed person has died in connection to vaping.

No cases have been reported in Washington state. Still, King County has issued a warning in response to the vaping issue, warning people about the severe lung disease that is hitting so many people.

“There’s hardly any regulation at all of these products, there’s hardly any oversight of the manufacturing, the purity, the safety,” Duchin said about vaping products.

“We just don’t know so much about the various ingredients, the flavoring, the oils, the heavy metals that have been found in some of the vaping substances,” he said.

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