SALEM, Ore. — State health officials in Oregon have now linked the death of man in July to a severe respiratory illness believed to be caused by an e-cigarette, according to a statement from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released on Tuesday.
Investigators from the OHA Public Health Division reported that the man had "recently used an e-cigarette or vaping device" bought from a cannabis dispensary. Symptoms of the man's resulting respiratory illness were found to be consistent with more than 200 cases reported across the nation.
"We don’t yet know the exact cause of these illnesses — whether they’re caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself," said Dr. Ann Thomas, public health physician at OHA’s Public Health Division.
OHA said that the symptoms of these illnesses include including shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever or weight loss.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the affected states have not identified a cause, but all cases have reported e-cigarette use or vaping," officials said.
Now public health authorities are warning clinicians to be on the lookout for signs of these issues among patients who recently used vaping products — urging them to contact OHA with any known cases.
"Before the new illness reports, OHA was already concerned about the health risks of vaping products," officials said. "A recent report by the agency details the health risks for the products including nicotine addiction, exposure to toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and increases in blood pressure."
Individuals who have recently used vaping products such as e-cigarettes and are having difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately, OHA said.