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New Minnesota lung injury cases have suspected link to vaping

The diagnosis was made more difficult because the symptoms of lung disease can be similar to those of patients with COVID-19, but tests for the virus were negative.

ST PAUL, Minn. — State health officials sent an alert to health care providers after investigating 11 severe lung injury cases with a suspected link to vaping.   

The vaping cases were diagnosed in patients between the ages of 14 and 46  during the months of June and July. The diagnosis was made more difficult because the symptoms of lung disease can be similar to those of patients with COVID-19, but tests for the virus were negative.

All 11 cases resulted in hospitalizations with some requiring intensive care, including being placed on ventilators.

"This public health threat got a lot of attention last year, and unfortunately it has not gone away,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We want providers and the public to be aware of the continued dangers of vaping products, and the possibility of lung injuries presenting as COVID-19. As we continue to investigate the causes of the lung injuries, we encourage people to take advantage of our free Quit Partner resources to help with quitting vaping.”

The patients sought care for symptoms similar to severe COVID-19 infection, including cough and shortness of breath, put tests proved negative. All of them said they had a history of vaping that included use of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal and most active ingredient in marijuana. Some reported using nicotine-based products. 

 MDH says patients responded to systemic steroid therapy, the treatment for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

“With this resurgence of cases, we are advising patients with a history of vaping who are experiencing lung-injury symptoms to seek clinical care,” said MDH State Epidemiologist and Medical Director Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “In addition, because this can present like COVID-19, providers also need to conduct a test to rule this out.”

More information on vaping-related lung injuries can be found on the MDH website.

There are similar reports of a resurgence of lung injury cases in California.

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