Marin County Public Health asks medical community to be wary of syndrome
San Rafael, CA – Although no cases have been reported in Marin County, a lung ailment associated with vaping cannabis or cannabis oils is on the rise throughout the United States, prompting local public health officials to issue “be on the lookout” advisories to medical professionals.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration are investigating 153 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use reported by 15 states, including California, from June 28 to August 22, 2019. One death has been confirmed.
Since June, 36 cases of vaping-associated pulmonary injury requiring hospitalization have been reported in California. In a cluster of seven cases in Kings County, in the southern Central Valley, patients experienced progressive respiratory distress after initial diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis. Those patients reported vaping cannabis or cannabis-based oils in the weeks prior to hospital admission and failed to respond to antibiotic treatment. Evaluations for infectious causes were negative.
Most patients nationwide report vaping the cannabis compounds THC and/or cannabidiol (CBD), and some also report vaping nicotine products. The exact cause of the illnesses is not yet known.
Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis recommended that clinicians report similar cases to Marin County Public Health and collect associated vaping products for testing.
Vaping involves inhaling vapor from an electronic smoking device, or e-cigarette, which heat-vaporizes liquids that can contain nicotine, chemical flavorings, cannabis, or other drugs. The liquids used in e-cigarettes are largely unregulated and can contain toxic chemicals.
Cases of lung injury related to vaping come in the context of rapid increases in vaping rates across Marin. In 2018 nearly one in three 11th graders in Marin reported vaping on a regular basis, more than double the 2016 rate.
With support from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted in November 2018 to add a chapter to the Marin County Code with a restriction on tobacco sales that included vaping products. Since then, similar bans on the sale flavored tobacco and vaping products have passed in Sausalito, Corte Madera, Larkspur, San Anselmo, San Rafael and Fairfax.
“This is another example of why we need policies to protect our community against harmful and addictive products,” Willis said. “We can’t rely on the industry to tell us what’s safe and what’s not.”
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