Sonoma County health officials issue alert amid vaping-related lung injuries

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Sonoma County health officials have issued a health alert warning against lung injuries related to vaping.

Dr. Celeste Philip, the county’s health officer, issued the alert last week, urging clinicians to watch for lung illnesses that could be associated with vaping cannabis, as well as cannabis oils or nicotine products.

The local health alert comes on the heels of a similar statewide warning by the California Department of Public Health. Since June, 36 cases of vaping-associated lung illness have required hospitalization throughout the state, according to the department.

In Kings County in the Central Valley, seven patients who were diagnosed with pneumonia or bronchitis experienced increasingly troubled breathing, officials said. The patients reported vaping cannabis or cannabis-based oils weeks before they were hospitalized. They failed to respond to antibiotic treatment, and medical tests for infectious disease were negative, state officials said.

“Although the Health Alert document is for clinicians, we want all residents and visitors in Sonoma County to be aware of these serious lung injuries,” Philip said in a statement.

Currently, no vaping-related lung illnesses have been reported in Sonoma County, health officials said.

Philip said a great deal is unknown about the risks of vaping. She said claims that vaping can be used as a smoking cessation method have likely increased its popularity as a perceived safer alternative to cigarettes.

“As we learn more about the cause of these injuries, I urge individuals to limit their use of vaping products or quit using them altogether,” she said.

The county health alert asks the medical staff report similar cases of vaping-related lung illness to the county’s public health division. Clinicians also are asked to collect associated vaping products for testing.

County officials said the use of electronic cigarettes, or vapes, involves inhaling an aerosol into the lungs.

Reported cases of vaping-related lung injury in other parts of the state come at a time when vaping rates across Sonoma County are increasing, health officials said.

In 2018, more than 25% of the county’s 11th graders reported vaping on a regular basis. That represented a 7% increase from 2016.

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