3 NC patients hospitalized for lung disease are possibly connected to vaping

Three people hospitalized in North Carolina with severe lung disease in July may have fallen ill after vaping or using e-cigarettes, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.

The department is investigating the cases, according to a news release, with North Carolina Poison Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies.

Each of the three people have various symptoms, with the severity of the disease differing among the three patients, the department said in the release. Some needed to be placed in intensive care with help in breathing, the release said.

But the common thread among the patients is that they all said they had used e-cigarettes or vaping devices before they were hospitalized.

A spokesperson for the department told The News & Observer that the three patients’ home cities could not be provided.

The department said that there isn’t any particular brand that has caused the illness, according to the release.

The North Carolina announcement comes as other states reported this week similar cases resulting from vaping.

According to The Associated Press, Wisconsin has reported 15 confirmed cases, with another 15 illnesses under investigation. New York state officials are investigating 10; Illinois has seen at least six, and Minnesota doctors said they have four. California and Indiana also have been investigating reported illnesses, The AP reports.

The symptoms include “shortness of breath, fever, cough and nausea or vomiting,” according to the news release. The AP adds that some patients have come down with illnesses that resemble an “inhalation injury.”

The nicotine found in e-liquids is addictive, the state said in the release.

Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have been worried about kids using them, according to The AP. Most of the concern has focused on nicotine, which health officials say is harmful to developing brains and might make kids more likely to take up cigarettes, The AP reports.

But The AP reports some vaping products have been found to contain other potentially harmful substances, including flavoring chemicals and oils used for vaping marijuana.

“Although the causes of the recently reported cases are still under investigation, this is a reminder of the potentially severe health consequences of vaping,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director, in the release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.