EXCLUSIVE: First case of vape related lung injury reported at Grand Strand

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The Grand Strand Medical Center has reported its first case of vape related lung injury to the state on Tuesday.

A woman in her 30s entered the emergency room with damage to her lungs and reported symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, and coughing. She recently had been treated with antibiotics, but they weren’t helping her, according to Dr. Chistina Vitale.

“We did some blood work, some imaging,” Vitale said, “and we noticed she does have the lung injury that has been related to vaping over the past five weeks.”

The damage was caused by the oils entering her lungs, Vitale said. “On imaging of the lungs, it looks like a lot of inflammation, a lot of edema, and patchiness throughout the lungs.”

“So, you’re
inhaling oils
down into
your lung,”

Dr. Jarratt Lark,
Grand Strand
Medical Center

The case was then reported to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The state has only one confirmed case of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products, according to DHEC on Tuesday. Due to federal privacy restrictions, DHEC is unable to provide additional information.

Dr. Vitale said the woman had been vaping for multiple months. “She had multiple complaints. Just cough, shortness of breath. She also had nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and she doesn’t know why she was having this.”

Many vaping products have oils in them. “So, you’re inhaling oils down into your lung,” said Dr. Jarratt Lark, who specializes in toxicology and is with Grand Strand. “The ones that have been associated so far seem to be the flavored vaping products or black-market products, the THC containing products. And that’s why young healthy, people can end up on ventilators.”

Doctors now ask vape-related questions when patients come in with similar symptoms. Most often in these cases, doctors prescribe a high dosage of steroids and an antibiotic if needed. Doctors also tell patients to quit vaping immediately.

The state asks healthcare providers to report severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping to the DHEC so it can effectively track related incidents. Cases are confirmed based on the case definition provided by the CDC, according to DHEC.

e-cigarette usage has increased in South Carolina by 21 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to DHEC’s Youth Tobacco Survey. As of the latest survey, 13.1 percent of SC high school students and 5.7 percent of middle school students replied that they “currently use e-cigarettes.”

e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It contains harmful substances in addition to nicotine, such as heavy metals like lead, organic compounds and Formaldehyde, a cancer-causing substance.

Contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 for information regarding poison prevention and treatment of exposures.

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