HELENA — State health officials have identified Montana's first death associated with the national outbreak of e-cigarette use, or vaping.
Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials say the case involves an individual in their late teens with a history of vaping. Officials have been investigating and officially identified this as a case on Oct. 15, according to a news release.
No further information about the individual is being released at this time due to confidentiality.
“My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family who has lost a loved one way too soon,” Gov. Steve Bullock said. “This tragedy truly hits home. I urge Montanans to take the recommendations being issued by public health officials very seriously until more is known about this public health crisis.”
DPHHS continues to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and local public health as this ongoing national investigation continues.
There have been three identified cases of vaping-associated pulmonary illness in Montana -- including the death. DPHHS is currently reviewing additional cases as part of the national investigation.
The CDC has reported 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory. The CDC also reported 26 deaths in 21 states last week. These numbers will be updated again on Thursday.
Gov. Bullock recently directed DPHHS to enact emergency rules to temporarily ban flavored e-cigarette products. The rules will be effective on October 22.
DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said much is still unknown about what is causing these vaping-associated illnesses and deaths. “During this time, we highly recommend that people refrain from any vaping products."
The CDC continues to post new information and recommendations about the outbreak on its website. The CDC and FDA have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
This outbreak might have more than one cause, and many different substances and product sources are still under investigation. The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, remains unknown at this time.
As part of this information-collecting effort, DPHHS will add vaping associated pulmonary illness to the list of reportable diseases and conditions to aid in the epidemiological investigation of the outbreak.
Those involved in the outbreak report symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common. Symptoms worsen over a period of days or weeks and do not appear to be caused by a pulmonary infection.
Anyone who vapes and is experiencing respiratory issues should promptly consult their provider. Healthcare providers treating patients with respiratory illness with no apparent infectious cause and who have a history of e-cigarette use are asked to notify their local health department.
Holzman said almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is very addictive. There are many services that are available to help Montanans quit. He urges Montanans to talk to their healthcare provider about help that is available.