HONOLULU (KHON2) – – The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed its first case of severe respiratory illness connected to vaping.
In early September, that case was reported to the Department of Health regarding a Big Island teenager that had to be hospitalized due to a severe respiratory illness.
It took some time for state officials to confirm that the case was e-cigarette-related because they had to rule out other causes of pneumonia and find out more about her vaping history.
In all the cases nationally and the one locally the people who fell ill with a severe respiratory illness vaped regularly.
“The vaping history is something they’ve been doing on a regular basis in all these cases,” said Dr. Sarah Park with the Hawaii Department of Health. “So we’re not talking about someone who vaped months ago and then suddenly has pneumonia.”
Hawaii’s case joins the more than 800 vaping-related illnesses across the nation. At least 12 people have died.
“Most of the cases, have been, nationally – and as with our case, have been associated with vaping THC product.”
THC is the chemical in marijuana that causes a high. Its link to the respiratory illnesses is something health officials across the nation are trying to figure out.
“The focus is not on trying to say its the victims fault,” said Dr. Park. “It’s certainly not the victims fault. We’re trying to understand is there a problem and what is the source.”
She said some of the red flags of a vape-related illness include breathing difficulties, coughing, fever and stomach problems. If you come down with these symptoms, she said to see a doctor.
She also recommends that if you haven’t vaped before, you shouldn’t start now.
The teenager that was hospitalized has since been released from the hospital and has returned home.
As for the potential long-term affects of this respiratory illness, Dr. park said that will have to be studied more.