Health officials in London, Ontario, are investigating a case of vaping-related illness in a youth who suffered severe respiratory problems that have been linked to e-cigarette use.
Officials at the Middlesex-London Health Unit in London — a city southwest of Toronto — did not reveal many details about the individual, saying only it was a high school-aged youth who vaped “at least daily.”
Dr. Christopher Mackie, medical officer for the county health department, said the patient had severe illness and was admitted to an intensive care unit. But the patient — who had no other health issues — has since recovered and has been released from the hospital.
The illness occurred earlier this year, Mackie told STAT. He would not specify when the individual was hospitalized, saying only that the health care provider who reported the illness did so in early summer.
Mackie also refused to say what the individual had been vaping. “We have information about the brand used. We have information about whether or not the individual was using cannabis,” he said, noting that information would be provided to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
He explained that publicly naming an e-cigarette product or a substance — nicotine alone, or with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis that has been linked to many of the vaping-related illnesses reported in the U.S. — might create the impression that the illness was caused by a single product or brand, instead of the practice of vaping itself.
“In order to clarify the health messaging, we’re not going to be releasing the brand related information. Because that would imply that this is something coming from one brand when clearly looking at the international evidence that’s not the case,” Mackie said.
One of the puzzling questions about the reports of vaping-related illnesses in the United States has been: Why aren’t other countries seeing this problem? The Canadian case suggests that, with the world alerted to the potential for vaping-linked lung illnesses, other cases may come to light.
That this one did seems almost incredible, occurring as it did before the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recently urged health officials to be on alert for cases of severe lung illnesses among people who use e-cigarettes.
A medical resident involved in the care of the teenager recognized that his or her vaping might have been linked to the illness. The resident — also unnamed — reported the case through Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act’s reporting system, used by Health Canada to determine if a product poses a health risk and needs to be recalled. His report was filed in early summer, Mackie said.
Word of the case filtered through to the office of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, which notified Mackie’s office late last week of the case.
Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott, moved Wednesday to ensure future cases do come to light, instructing the province’s hospitals to report cases of lung injuries linked to e-cigarette use to the chief medical officer of health.
“This information, not previously available to the ministry of health, will be critical as we continue to engage with leading experts to identify evidence-based solutions that protect our youth from the potential dangers of vaping,” Elliott said in a statement.
To date, 380 confirmed and probable cases have been reported to the CDC from 36 states and one U.S. offshore territory, and there have been seven confirmed deaths.