MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - The state Department of Health Services now reports 11 teenagers and young adults have been hospitalized with severe lung disease linked to the use of vaping products.
The Wisconsin DHS says the patients are from Dodge, Door, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha and Winnebago counties.
Other than their recent vaping, health officials are still trying to determine if there are other common links.
Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said, "We strongly urge people to avoid vaping products and e-cigarettes. Anyone -- especially young people who have recently vaped --experiencing unexplained breathing problems should see a doctor."
We don't know the conditions of all of the teens. Last week we were told many responded to steroid treatment and were released without the need for supplemental oxygen at home.
Last week, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin said it knew of eight cases (see related story). "People have been smoking for many years, and over time they develop effects from it. This is different. This is acute," Dr. Louella Amos of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin said.
The teens reported experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, a cough and weight loss from vomiting and diarrhea, hospital officials said.
DHS Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Meiman said some of those teens reported vaping nicotine and THC, the part of marijuana that gives its high.
According to the CDC, 3.6 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes last year. Doctors say the long-term effects remain unknown because vaping products are so new.
Children's Hospital says parents and teenagers need to be aware of the potential danger. E-cigarette cartridges can contain toxic chemicals which have been shown to damage lungs.
The hospital says the chemicals can be especially dangerous to children since their lungs are still developing.
Sarajean Schluechtermann with the Winnebago Co. Health Department added, "It's not safer than cigarettes. That's a common thought out there. It doesn't just release vapor, water vapor, that's something else that people think. It's releasing a lot of different harmful chemicals."
Local groups are also trying to get the word out, like Kaukauna based Community Action for Healthy Living.
"We are obviously very concerned and we are giving presentations to schools, to administrations, to working with our municipalities to make sure they are including e-cigarettes policies into their no smoking bans," said Hannah Wilz, who works as a health educator with the organization.