Local youth’s respiratory illness linked to vaping

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / milinz

A local teenager who ended up on life-support in hospital is believed to have suffered a respiratory illness as a result of vaping.

The Middlesex London Health Unit announced at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that a “high school-aged youth” had been treated for a severe respiratory illness that has been linked to vaping.

While Medical Officer of Health and CEO of the health unit, Dr. Christopher Mackie, would not reveal the exact age or gender of the teen, he did say that the youth’s illness was life-threatening and required treatment in the Intensive Care Unit. Mackie told reporters that the teen has since recovered.

“While we aren’t able to say conclusively that the respiratory illness that occurred in this young person was the result of vaping, there is no other identifiable cause in this case,” Mackie said. “We were able this week, in partnership with the office of the CMOH (Chief Medical Officer of Health) to confirm that the case is meeting the national working case definition of severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping.”

He added that the youth had “no other health issues, whatsoever.”

Mackie also gave credit to a local physician who reported the illness through the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act reporting system.

“This was somebody who went above and beyond their medical duty and provided information that was crucial to understanding the public health risks of e-cigarettes,” he said.

But Mackie would not say whether the teen was vaping nicotine liquid or cannabis.

The health unit released details of the youth’s condition on the same day the Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott issued a directive to hospitals in the province to provide the Chief Medical Officer of Health with “statistical, non-identifying information related to incidences of vaping-related severe pulmonary disease.”

“In light of the growing evidence, I have become increasingly concerned about the prevalence and possible health consequences of vaping, particularly as they affect our youth,” Elliott said in a statement released Wednesday. “At the same time, it has become abundantly clear that we do not have access to sufficient data and information to understand the potential scope of this issue.”

A few weeks ago, Health Canada issued an alert regarding vaping products. It asked people who vape to watch for cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Those who vape and experience these symptoms are urged to seek medical attention.