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Health Officials Confirm First Vaping Related Death of an Indiana Resident

By Indiana State Department of Health on 9/9/2019

The ISDH has confirmed the first death of an adult Indiana resident due to severe lung injury who reported vaping. Nationally, this is the third reported death. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is investigating reports of 30 individuals with severe acute respiratory illness who reported recent e-cigarette use, vaping, or dabbing (vaping marijuana oils, extracts, or concentrates). Indiana cases range in age from 16 to 65 years (median age, 26), and 63% are male.

This is an ongoing investigation, and the ISDH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other states responding to reports of similar cases. Nationally, approximately 215 possible cases of severe respiratory illness in individuals who report e-cigarette product use have now been reported in 25 states from June 28, 2019, to Aug. 27, 2019.

Patients experienced respiratory symptoms including:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Other symptoms included weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Chest X-ray (CXR) showed bilateral opacities, and chest CT imaging shows diffuse ground glass opacities, often with subpleural sparing. These symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Most patients were placed on oxygen; mechanical ventilation has been reported in only a few of the Indiana cases. Evaluation for infectious etiologies (bacterial, viral, and fungal) were negative in all confirmed cases.

The ISDH is requesting that healthcare providers who are seeing patients with unexpected serious respiratory illness and who report a history of inhalation drug use in the previous 90 days, particularly vaping, report these to their local health department (LHD) as soon as possible. LHDs who are alerted of suspect cases should notify the ISDH immediately.

It is unknown what specific vape product(s) or chemicals may be linked to these illnesses, or where they were obtained. The majority of cases nationwide and in Indiana have reported vaping THC or CBD oil. If the patient has vape product available and would be willing to submit product for testing, please notify the ISDH to work out submission logistics.

ISDH and the Indiana Poison Control Center have partnered to improve case reporting efficiency. To report suspected cases, please contact ISDH Respiratory Epidemiologist Sara Hallyburton at 317-234- 2809 or the Indiana Poison Center at (800) 222-1222. To submit vape product, or for additional questions, please contact Sara Hallyburton, ISDH Respiratory Epidemiologist, at (317) 234-2809, or the ISDH Epidemiologist-on-Call after hours at (317) 233-1325.