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CDC and FDA Investigating Cluster of Pulmonary Illnesses and E-cigarette Use

August 26, 2019--The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising the public that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a cluster of pulmonary illnesses possibly related to e-cigarette use, or "vaping."

From June 28, 2019 to August 22, 2019, 193 possible cases have been reported in 22 states, including Connecticut. One adult death has been reported. No cases have been reported in Rhode Island. Most illness reports have been for adolescents and young adults.

In many cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases involved mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea and fatigue as well. Many patients have reported vaping cannabis products, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) oils. THC and CBD are found in marijuana.

Rhode Islanders who experience difficulty breathing or chest pain should seek immediate medical attention.

"There are still some unknowns when it comes to e-cigarettes, but one thing is very clear: e-cigarettes are not safe, particularly for young people and for pregnant women," said RIDOH Deputy Director Ana Novais. "In addition to being unhealthy, teenagers often transition from using e-cigarettes to traditional, lit cigarettes—the deadliest of all tobacco products. Free resources are available for Rhode Islanders of any age who are looking for help quitting e-cigarette use."

If you are using e-cigarettes and are looking for help quitting, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free resources. Additionally, parents should talk to their children about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. The Office of the Surgeon General has guidance online for parents.

Although Rhode Island has not had any reported cases, RIDOH has sent a communication to healthcare providers with an overview of the national situation, a description of symptoms, and instructions on how to report cases.

While some cases are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses. Investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases. The FDA is working with CDC and state health officials to gather information on any products or substances used.

Young people should not use vaping or e-cigarette products of any kind. The long-term health impacts for children and teenagers using these products are unknown. Patients with a history of vaping who are experiencing breathing problems should seek medical care.

* This press release was originally published August 26, 2019. The resource links listed below were updated on September 12, 2019.

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