State health officials have reported Nebraska’s first death related to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping.

The person, who died in May, was over age 65 and from the area served by the Douglas County Health Department, officials confirmed Monday.

Nationwide, 12 other deaths have been reported in 10 other states in the multistate outbreak of vaping-related illnesses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Tom Safranek, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist, said the vaping-related lung injuries weren’t reported and tracked by public health agencies before the outbreak in Wisconsin and Illinois in August.

Once the problem was recognized, he said, states ramped up surveillance and discovered not only current cases but also others that occurred before the August outbreak.

Nebraska currently has 11 cases of vaping-related illness and two others under investigation. The majority of cases involve males ranging in age from late teens to late 60s. Some of those affected were hospitalized.

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As of Friday, 805 lung injury cases had been reported nationwide in 46 states and in one U.S. territory.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has alerted health care providers, advising them to consider vaping-related illness in patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of vaping. Suspected cases should be reported to local health departments or state health officials.

While the investigation is ongoing, the CDC has recommended that the public consider not using e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly those containing THC. Most patients with lung injury nationally have reported using vaping products containing the high-inducing compound in marijuana, although some reported using only nicotine-containing products.

Youths, young adults and pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes or vaping products. For more information about e-cigarettes, go to e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov.

Resources are available for Nebraskans who want help quitting nicotine-containing products of any kind. They include:

  • Talking to your health care provider.
  • Calling the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or 1-855-DEJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) for Spanish services. Translation services also are available in more than 170 languages. The Quitline provides free confidential coaching and a free two-week supply of nicotine replacement therapy. To learn more, visit www.QuitNow.ne.gov.
  • Checking insurance benefits to see what treatment plans are covered and what other benefits are available.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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