The State of Montana Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed the first case of severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping as part of an ongoing national investigation.

RiverStone Health in Billings was the agency that first reported the case, according to DPHHS Epidemiologist Lisa Richidt.

“This particular case was hospitalized in August of this summer, began Richidt. “It presented in Yellowstone County and followed the typical presentation that we’re seeing with this disease with some respiratory issues and had a history of vaping. “We’ve been tracking this particular individual and were able to follow up with them to confirm that they were indeed a case.”

State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said he fully expects there to be more cases as the year wears on.

“It’s important for us to say that we’re looking at different cases that are coming in and once we go out and do the evaluations with our local public health officials, interview patients if they are able, so that’s why it takes some time to confirm or not confirm any new cases,” said Holzman. We’re in the middle of an epidemic and we’re trying to learn what we can while we’re here and get that information out as quickly as possible.”

Holzman said there are two aspects of the disease that are occurring in Montana at this time.

“There are two things that are merging with themselves,” said Dr. Holzman. “The immediate concern I might say is that we have people that are getting very sick and having severe consequences up to death and we don’t know the exact cause, but we do know there’s an association with e-cigarettes, and we need to move with what information we have right now.”

DPHHS states that adding to their concern is that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco products among high school students in Montana.  Symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue, in addition to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and that anyone experiencing such symptoms after vaping should consult a physician immediately.

“I think it requires more than just a parent saying ‘no’, said Holzman. “They need to sit down and have a real conversation with the child and give the child an opportunity to say if they’re having trouble trying to quit. Here at the DPHHS we have our Quit Line, and we also have one specifically for those 18 and under called ‘My Life My Quit’ and there’s a website and a phone number for that at 855-891-9989 that they can either call or text.”

DPHHS states that e-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products, however the state of Montana has not specifically banned their sale or usage.


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