Health

Kentucky is investigating one potential case of a mysterious vaping-related lung illness that’s linked to a nationwide outbreak, the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced Friday. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating 450 cases across 33 states, including the 215 cases reported last week. At least three people have died in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon.

According to the CDC, symptoms of the severe lung illness include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever and chest pain, among others. In some cases, symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks and required hospitalization.

The CDC says the common denominator in patients is the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vapes. Some patients have reported using marijuana vaping products. Just this week, health officials in New York State said they’re investigating a potential cause: oil in vaping liquid derived from Vitamin E, which can impede breathing and damage lungs when inhaled.

Though Kentucky officials didn’t announce in what part of the state the patient is located, earlier this week a Louisville doctor said he’d treated at least one patient with what seemed to be very similar symptoms to the nationwide outbreak.

Kentucky only recently started tracking these cases through voluntary reports from health providers. Acting Kentucky State Epidemiologist Douglas Thoroughman said last week that they’re asking health doctors to look out for patients that are younger and have sudden onset respiratory problems and to ask questions.

“Are they vaping? Are they using e-cigarettes?” Thoroughman said.

The outbreak is causing some concern among public health advocates who have long warned of the potential dangers of vaping. For instance, because they are relatively new products, there aren’t studies on possible health effects. In addition, vapes don’t go through an application or review process to assess their safety through the Food and Drug Administration, like drugs and medical devices do.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.