Vaping Illness Sickened Three People in Arizona, Health Agency Confirms

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Three cases of the mysterious respiratory illness believed to be caused by vaping now have been confirmed in Arizona.

State health officials have been poring over data for more than a week, trying to determine whether the state has had any cases similar to those that have sickened an estimated 380 people nationwide and killed seven in six different states. (The seventh was a California patient whose death was reported today, September 17.) They answered that question in a news release this morning, stating that the three cases had been confirmed in Maricopa County, and that all three patients were hospitalized but have since been released from the hospital.

Phoenix New Times published a story last week about a young man who said vaping caused his recent lung problems and hospitalization, but officials are not releasing the identities of the people from the three confirmed cases.

Neither Chris Minnick, spokesperson for the DHS, nor Sonia Singh, the spokesperson for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, could say on Tuesday whether the patients left the hospital with continued breathing problems and the prospect of long-term health effects, or if their illnesses had been resolved.

Singh said all three patients were in their 20s, and that all the cases had occurred in the past month. All three had used both vaping products with cannabis and vaping products with nicotine prior to getting sick, she added.

The national number of cases rose to 450 earlier this month, and apparently hasn't risen significantly since then, despite the handful of confirmed new cases in Arizona and elsewhere. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control had been tallying all "suspected, probable, and confirmed" cases to arrive at that 450 number, Minnick pointed out, but the CDC has since counted only probable and confirmed cases, resulting in the new number of 380.

Alexis Kramer-Ainza, a spokesperson with Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, said on Tuesday that the center knows of five unconfirmed vaping-related cases in the Phoenix area, and one in Tucson. That's one more possible Phoenix area cases than the center reported last week. Kramer-Ainza said she can't confirm if any of the patients from the state's confirmed cases were evaluated by Banner Health.

New Times reached out to CDC officials to ask more questions about the nationwide number of cases and will update the story when they get back.

“We are working with our county and federal partners to identify the cause of this very serious illness,”  Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director, said in the released statement.

The DHS and CDC report that "patients have reported symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or weight loss," and that "some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days; others have reported their symptoms developed over several weeks."

In addition to the type of vaping that's sickening people, the DHS has stepped up its previous warnings about vaping by adults and children. Officials referred to their informational website, azhealth.gov/VapeOutbreak on the illness, and the awareness campaign for children, FactsOverFlavor.com. Anyone with concerns about vaping can call the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at (800) 222-1222.

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