How local doctors are dealing with lung disease outbreak linked to vaping

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The number of lung illnesses in people who vape continues to rise. There are 16 confirmed cases in Wisconsin in 10 counties. Cases have been confirmed locally in Winnebago County and Door County.

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Patients are reporting shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough and weight loss, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

There are also hundreds of suspected cases of lung disease linked to vaping.

The local medical community is trying to do its part in educating teens about the lung illness. They're also working on how to treat it.

"I think it's something we're starting to pay attention to more now as it's become more increased," says Colton Skenandore, physician assistant, BayCare Clinic.

Skenandore treats patients in the emergency department. He says vaping and respiratory problems are now part of his focus. That wasn't the case a few months ago.

"I think in particular with upper respiratory symptoms, it's something that we need to take into consideration," says Skenandore, "especially if you have a chest X-ray finding that's really abnormal and something you don't necessarily see all the time."

Vaping is relatively new. There's little known about long-term effects. Research doesn't exist at this time.

Medical professionals are learning as they go.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a memo urging doctors to report vaping-related illnesses to state health officials. They want doctors to ask patients about vaping use.

"We should probably ask about it separately from just cigarette smoking as you might get a completely different answer," Skenandore says. "It might be a case of a young adult or a teen thinks these are two completely isolated, separate things, but they do have a lot of risk factors in common."

The Department of Health Services reports some of the confirmed Wisconsin cases involved vaping nicotine and/or THC or other unknown chemicals. They're still trying to figure out what patients have in their lungs.

"We don't have a specific test for that right now. I think, potentially part of the problem is, people that are using these devices don't even necessarily know what they're putting into their body," says Skenandore.

The state will update its lung disease outbreak numbers Thursdays at 10 a.m. CLICK HERE for updates.

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