First confirmed case of severe vaping-related illness reported in Alberta
EDMONTON -- The first case of severe vaping-related illness has been confirmed in Alberta, according to the province's top doctor.
Alberta Health Services is not identifying who suffered the rare illness, the 15th confirmed case in Canada, but say it was an adult who began feeling symptoms in early December after using nicotine-containing vaping products.
The products were commercially available, according to AHS.
"Some shortness of breath and coughing and symptoms progressed, they did require treatment in hospital, but have since been discharged and they're recovering at home," said Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
She said doctors concluded it was Alberta's first case of vaping-associated lung illness by using a diagnosis of exclusion, which rules out other illnesses using several criteria.
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"One is that they have to be exposed to some kind of vaping product within the 90 days before they get sick," said Hinshaw.
They must also experience symptoms reported in other cases of vaping illness, including shortness of breath, cough, fever and chills, and a chest X-ray or CT scan must show inflammation in the lungs.
The patient was not smoking cigarettes in addition to using vaping products, Hinshaw said, and doctors noted the acute short-term inflammation seen in their lungs were not the same as chronic lung issues brought on by smoking.
Hinshaw stressed that the best way to avoid any potential illnesses from vaping is to stop altogether.
"This is just one possible health effect from vaping. With only 15 cases, it's not a common condition, but it can be very severe," she said, adding there have been 55 deaths linked to vaping in the U.S. as of Dec. 27.
U.S. health officials have identified a common vape ingredient, vitamin E acetate, as a "chemical of concern" in those cases, but said there has been no single common link identified in the 15 Canadian cases.
"When people modify their vapes or use non-commercial products from the illicit market, those are things that seems to increase the risk," she said. "Those continuing to vape, make sure those products are not from the illicit market. Even that isn't a 100 per cent guarantee."
In a tweet, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the ministry is "actively monitoring" the situation.
In fall 2019, federal health officials asked provincial counterparts to report any probable or confirmed cases of severe illness linked to vaping as part of a national investigation.
The province is currently reviewing Alberta's Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act
"Based on its findings, we expect to table new vaping-related legislation this spring," Shandro said.
Hinshaw said it's the 12th notification of a possible vaping-related illness in Alberta, but the other 11 cases haven't met the probable or confirmed case definition.
To date, there have been no deaths in Canada linked to vaping.