Minnesota health officials report resurgence of severe lung injuries connected to vaping

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials are seeing a recent resurgence of severe lung injuries connected to vaping, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

In June and July, there were a total of 11 cases that needed hospitalizations. In some cases, the patients needed intensive care and even had to be placed on ventilators. The patients ranged from 14 to 46 years old, with a median age of 18.

Since the symptoms are similar to COVID-19, diagnosing the patients proved to be more difficult. All of the patients had symptoms such as a cough and shortness and breath, but tested negative for the coronavirus. MDH State Epidemiologist and Medical Director Dr. Ruth Lynfield is recommending those with a history of vaping who are experiencing similar symptoms to seek clinical care.

“This public health threat got a lot of attention last year, and unfortunately it has not gone away,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a press release. “We want providers and the public to be aware of the continued dangers of vaping products, and the possibility of lung injuries presenting as COVID-19."

The patients with severe lung injuries told officials they had a history of vaping, with most reporting they vaped tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient in marijuana. Patients are being treated with systemic steroid therapy, which is used following an e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

Last year, there was a national outbreak of vaping-associated lung injuries. Minnesota's cases peaked in September through October of 2019. Throughout the outbreak, Minnesota recorded 149 confirmed or probable cases and three confirmed deaths.