As federal officials investigate a multi-state outbreak of lung illnesses associated with the use of e-cigarette products, the state's public health commissioner is temporarily adding possible cases of vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses to the list of conditions clinicians are required to report to the state.
Monica Bharel told the Public Health Council on Wednesday that she was using her authority under Department of Public Health regulations to mandate that vaping-related illnesses be reported to the department for the next 12 months. Gathering that information will allow the department to provide case counts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, help public health officials understand the magnitude of the situation in Massachusetts, and shape what steps the state takes next, Bharel said.
More than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette products had been reported to the CDC from 33 states — a list that does not include Massachusetts — and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Five deaths have been confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon.
USA Today on Wednesday reported that a sixth person, a 50-year-old patient in Kansas, had died of vaping-related lung disease.
The CDC said it has not identified a cause of the outbreak, but all reported cases have a history of e-cigarette use, and no evidence of infectious disease has been found.
In Massachusetts, 41% of high school students have tried e-cigarettes at least once, according to the DPH's latest data. About 20% of them say they have used the vapes in the past 30 days — which is six times higher than the rate of adults. Almost 10% of middle schoolers also said they had tried e-cigarettes.