Officials confirm two vaping-related illnesses in Spokane County

Two cases of a severe lung illness linked to vaping have been confirmed in Spokane County, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

The news comes as officials around the country have tallied hundreds of illnesses and several deaths linked to vaping. The two cases mark three total in Washington that match what the Centers for Disease Control describe, says Washington state Health Officer Kathy Lofy in a news release.

"This is now a state-wide outbreak," Lofy says.

The two Spokane County cases are a patient in their teens and a patient in their 20s. They were hospitalized in August and have since been discharged, says Bob Lutz, Spokane County Health Officer.

All three cases in Washington involved people with severe pulmonary disease who reported vaping prior to illness, the Department of Health says. But officials have yet to find any link between the three as far as a product, device or additive.

"You're asking the million-dollar question, and unfortunately we don't know," Lutz says. 

While early indications were that black market THC may have been behind the recent surge in vaping illnesses, marijuana products haven't been linked to every case. Lutz says roughly four-in-five cases across the country are linked to marijuana products, but "in our cases they neither said 'yes' or 'no' to that." He adds that young people may not be as forthcoming since it is still illegal under the age of 21.

Lutz says the healthiest option is to not smoke or vape anything.

"This is but one of the many warning signs we've seen that vaping is unhealthy and unsafe for you," he says.

But if you continue vaping, he says do not buy anything off the street and to stick to what you've been using, if you can. Officials say to monitor yourself for symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath and chest pain.

"We will continue to update the public on the status of the investigation and steps they can take to protect their health," Lofy says. 

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione, born and raised in Spokane, is an Inlander staff writer covering education and social services in the Inland Northwest.