JEFFERSON — The Jefferson County Health Department is one of 26 Wisconsin counties investigating cases of severe lung disease associated with using vaping devices to inhale THC-containing products.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is aware of 60 confirmed cases, as of Sept. 26. There are 14 patients whose records need further investigation, the release said.
Jefferson County Health Department director Gail Scott couldn’t confirm the number of cases in Jefferson County, but she said it was more than one and fewer than five.
The other affected counties are Adams, Brown, Dane, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Kenosha, La Crosse, Marathon, Milwaukee, Monroe, Outagamie, Portage, Racine, Sauk, Sheboygan, St. Croix, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, and Winnebago.
Most of the individuals affected in Wisconsin have been adolescents and young adults, she said. Patients often have a wide range of initial symptoms but go on to develop severe respiratory illness that requires hospitalization and sometimes a ventilator.
Illnesses related to the vaping of THC has become a nationwide concern. There have been 805 cases of lung injury in 46 states and one U.S. territory, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Most of these cases involved men between the ages of 18 and 34, according to CDC data.
Scott said there’s still a lot of investigating the county health department, the area service providers and the state Department of Health Services need to do.
“We’re trying to figure it out, it’s really difficult,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of complicating factors in trying to follow up and figure out what liquids they vaped and what device they were using.”
The problem has become a major concern in high schools across the country, with 25 percent of high school seniors reporting vaping in 2019, according to the National Institutes of Health.
In Jefferson County, the effort has turned to trying to curb the problem.
“We just have to hope we can get the education out there and get people to stop vaping,” Scott said.
Now that there are cases reported in the county, the Health Department has to work with the service providers and the state to get as much information on the patients as possible.
“We get it reported to us and we have to work with the state or hospital for follow-up interviews,” Scott said. “If possible, the devices need to be collected and sent into the state for testing.”