State health officials investigating lung illness case possibly tied to vaping

DES MOINES — The medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health confirms Iowa is among the states that’s investigating cases of lung disease or illness that may be tied to vaping.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, who is also the state epidemiologist, says national reports indicate 15 states have at least 120 such cases under watch.  “While we didn’t initially have any cases, we did share a message with our health care and public health providers through our website,” Dr. Pedati says. “It was after that that we were notified of a potential case. We are still investigating this case so I don’t have any additional information for you at this time but we do have one under investigation.”

She would not provide any details on the case, including the victim’s name, age, region of the state, type of illness or severity of illness. Pedati notes that vaping was introduced as a way to help smokers quit, so it would be unfortunate if vaping turned out to pose a serious health risk as well. “Whenever something unusual like this happens, it can be concerning and frustrating for people when we don’t have answers initially,” Pedati says.

You have to be at least 18 to buy vaping products in Iowa. Pedati wouldn’t comment on whether that age should be raised or whether additional taxes should be added to the product to make it more expensive and thus, less desirable to young consumers.  “We never want our teenagers, our young people to be using any vaping products,” Pedati says. “We’re really discouraging that across the board. In the meantime, we’re also asking our public health and health care providers to be on the lookout for cases like this and to contact Public Health when they think they may’ve found one.”

According to a CNN story, health officials in multiple states says it’s unclear whether there’s a connection between the cases or if vaping definitively caused these illnesses. Several people were hospitalized.