December 27, 2019
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 450 possible cases of lung disease related to vaping in 33 states. One case involved a 17-year-old who spent 10 days in The University of Kansas Hospital because she had trouble breathing after using a vape infused with THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, for more than 9 months.
Michael Lewis, MD, who heads pediatric inpatient and intensive care at The University of Kansas Health System, talks about the young woman he treated and explains why he believes vaping is scarier than measles.
Mike Lewis: Our patient, it was very serious. This is a very healthy teenage patient who came into us with respiratory symptoms. And really, first thought was this is maybe a bacterial pneumonia, and by doing standards of care for bacterial pneumonia and seeing the patient starting to decompensate in front of us, it kind of started to drive to looking for other options other than just a bacterial pneumonia.
And then by looking deeper and knowing also what was happening with a lot of information floating around from the CDC about be aware of these lung injuries that we're not completely clear of what the whole mechanism is, but there seems to be a response to, actually, steroids instead of antibiotics, which is a complete kind of 180 perspective of how to treat it, then after consideration and more studies, and some invasive studies too, the therapy changed, and then the patient definitely responded. But for somebody who can walk and talk with no oxygen requirements to almost maybe needing to possibly be on a ventilator, it's a pretty scary situation.
Obviously in pediatrics, and even in adults, anything that you're going to inhale that is going to have something that's got any of these oils, nicotine, THC, if it doesn't sound safe, but there's definitely a thought, well, this is better than cigarettes, and I don't really know what we can truly say at this point, but what we do know is this is not clearly safe. We've had multiple deaths already reported. It seems like every day or two we start to hear more and more and more about the incidents of this.
You know, just a week ago there was a thought of maybe it's been about a hundred or so, and now we're over 400 known reported cases. There's no specific thing that it's linked to just nicotine, to just THC, to any of the other ingredients that are also maybe thought, at least initially, to be the common denominator. Vaping is the common denominator. It goes from an incidence of we think nothing to a lot. I mean, you hear about like measles outbreaks. I mean, this is more scary, I think, than measles at this point.