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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego Collaborating With State, Feds Amid 12 Local Cases Of Vaping-Related Illness

 September 13, 2019 at 10:04 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 There was another death this week from a national outbreak of an unusual vaping related illness. So far. San Diego was holding at 12 cases with no deaths. KPBS health reporter Teran Mento talks to the county health departments Dr. Eric McDonald about treating the disease while working to solve the mystery. Speaker 2: 00:20 Well, Dr. McDonald, thank you for speaking with me. It's my pleasure. What's the latest on the cases in San Diego? Speaker 3: 00:25 Well, it's an interesting illness because it's not reportable. It's not one of the ones we'd known about until recently, but one of the things that is supposed to be reported is unusual diseases and that's exactly what this is. We have 12 cases that have been reported so far in San Diego. They range in age from 17 to 70 with the median at about 38 which is a little older than some of the cases across the rest of the country. They wreck the rest of the country. Is reporting a lot of, uh, teenagers and young adults. Speaker 2: 00:54 Are these patients still currently hospitalized? They're all 12 currently in the hospital. Have some be been released. Speaker 3: 01:00 There was one patient that had to be readmitted to the hospital. And that's one of the things we don't know about this illness is really one of the longterm effects. Certainly there's some dramatic short term effects where individuals are hospitalized, put in the intensive care unit, uh, sometimes put on breathing machines. This has happened here in San Diego. Uh, but that's the short term problem. Nobody really knows what the longterm problems, uh, both of this syndrome and frankly of using these vaping products might be. Speaker 2: 01:26 Why don't we know yet what's causing this? Speaker 3: 01:29 That's a great question. Uh, the, and the, the, the sort of follow on is how long has this really been going on? I mean, is it just something that, because some doctors noticed it and published it, uh, and other doctors started looking that were seeing something that was always there, uh, or are the numbers of people who are vaping just getting to a critical mass that, and an uncommon result of vaping is now showing up more frequently? Or is there something new being introduced into different vaping products? Uh, that is in fact causing these, it could be any or all of those. We have been able to get samples from two of our 12 patients in San Diego and sent those samples up to the state cannabis, um, uh, uh, laboratory at, uh, the, uh, department of public health. Some of the, uh, laboratories across the country have noted that some of the cannabis products have had vitamin E in them and that's not something that you would normally expect to find. Now the question is, is that related or is that just a red herring? And we don't really know until we can connect all the dots. Speaker 2: 02:34 You just said that a samples from two of the 12 patients that we sent to the state, is that the county's main role, just a, you know, a, a middleman here or is, are you doing more on the ground asking questions, collecting data, and doing your own investigation? Speaker 3: 02:50 Well, uh, it's a little bit of both. This is a national investigation and they, uh, have established a national database with standard questions. All of the local jurisdictions are feeding up to the CDC because sometimes you need large numbers of cases to understand small details that that might be able to crack the case so to speak. But for our individual cases here in San Diego, they have to be interviewed. They have to be looked into. We ask if they've got product available. And again, in two of the cases we were able to, to identify those a have those routed through our public health lab to the state lab. And of course we track all of that information, uh, and give feedback to the providers. In fact, if we find things other than knowing that all of our cases, uh, bought products that were canaveroid products and knowing that many of them bought it from pop up shops or over the internet, which is something that we're trying to counsel against. Speaker 3: 03:46 We haven't seen any other specific commonalities between our patients. Anything I missed that I didn't ask this? The signs and symptoms people have of these illnesses? Uh, it turns out that it's not just a respiratory symptoms. People have, um, some of the initial symptoms people have after vaping can be a nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea leading then to, um, respiratory symptoms of cough and shortness of breath. And so one of the messages that we have is if you have those kinds of symptoms and you're seeking medical care, which you should, um, you should tell your doctor about all the things that you do. Um, the nutritional supplements that you take, the medications that you're on, and the products that you might be using and vaping because it might actually affect what your doctor thinks of in terms of what would be causing your symptoms. Well, thank you very much for your time, doctor. It's my pleasure. Yeah. Okay, thanks. Speaker 1: 04:37 That was KPBS reporter Taron Mento speaking with the director of the county's epidemiology and immunization services branch, Dr. Eric McDonald. Speaker 4: 04:50 [inaudible].

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The head of the county’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch shares details about the patients and explains how local and state officials are working together to investigate the mysterious illness.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments