Alaska News

Number of vaping-linked deaths, illnesses rises across U.S., but none reported in Alaska, state health department says


None of the deaths or illnesses in an outbreak that U.S. health officials have linked to vaping products have been reported in Alaska, state health officials said this week.

As of Friday, more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette products have been reported in 33 states and in one territory, according to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five deaths have been confirmed in the outbreak, the CDC said. Those were in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Oregon.

“No cases have been identified and reported here to the state health department here in Alaska,” said Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

[Related: Lung illness tied to vaping has killed five people, may be a new ‘worrisome’ disease, officials say]

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with state and local agencies, are investigating the outbreak. The investigation is ongoing and has not identified a cause, the CDC said, though all reported cases involve a history of using e-cigarette products. Such products are used for vaping nicotine or compounds found in cannabis.

“Many patients report using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products” such as THC, the CDC said.

There has been no evidence of infectious disease identified in the outbreak, the CDC said, and therefore the illnesses “are likely associated with a chemical exposure.” The agency urged people to consider not using vaping products while the investigation is ongoing.

Severe pulmonary disease symptoms reported by some patients in this outbreak include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and more, the CDC said.

Alaska’s health department put out a public health alert in late August, urging health care providers to report possible cases of pulmonary illness associated with vaping to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.

Annie Zak

Annie Zak was a business reporter for the ADN between 2015 and 2019.