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Vaping-associated illness confirmed in Knox County, health department says

The two health departments are working to determine the cause of the illness, and believe more cases are likely to start being reported.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department announced Wednesday it has confirmed with the Tennessee Department of Health that someone in Knox County has a case of pulmonary illness that could be related to e-cigarette use. 

The person is expected to recover, a news release from KCHD said.

The two health departments are working to determine the cause of the illness, and believe more cases are likely to start being reported.

The Centers for Disease Control reported there are more than 190 similar cases across 22 states, and one death has been reported in Illinois

“Given the activity in the rest of the U.S., we’ve been expecting a case and believe more are likely,” KCHD Senior Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said in the release. “It is still early in the investigation, but it’s important for the public to be aware of the symptoms and the potential link with e-cigarettes.”

Buchanan told 10News that about 30% of high school students in Knox County said they vaped.

The executive director of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association, an advocacy group that promotes vaping, said he believes vaping itself is not the cause and misinformation is being spread. 

He said vaping is meant for adults trying to quit smoking cigarettes. 

"I think it's irresponsible to vaguely acute vaping as the culprit in this particular instance. Vaping has been around since 2007. I have been using the product since 2010, almost nine years now. It helped me quit smoking. I think it's very irresponsible for government and for media to be presenting this as a vaping issue," said Tris Agrafiotis.

Both the Tennessee Smoke Free Association and doctors agree it is important to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids and teens.

RELATED: "I've never been that sick before": East Tennessee woman warns of vaping after hospitalization

"What we know is that across the country, there have been several people who have become ill, and the only common factor they can find is that they all vaped, and right now we have a case in Knox County of someone who has a history of vaping, who became ill," said Buchanian. "So right now if somebody's thinking about vaping, I'd say don't."

Here are the symptoms KCHD said people should be looking for to determine if they may have a vaping-associated illness:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue, 
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Diarrhea

Particularly watch to see if those symptoms get worse over a period of days or weeks, KCHD said. 

Anyone with these symptoms who also uses e-cigarettes or vaping devices is encouraged to seek medical care from their health care provider, the health department advises.

RELATED: Tennessee Dept. of Health asks providers to report vaping-associated respiratory illnesses

The Tennessee Department of Health is asking health care providers to report possible cases of serious respiratory illnesses among patients who use e-cigarettes or vaping devices. 

The confirmation comes amidst a national trend of increasing numbers of cases of such illnesses that are associated with e-cigarette use. 

RELATED: CDC investigating 153 cases of lung disease possibly linked to vaping

The CDC is currently investigating any possible links between e-cigarette use and severe pulmonary diseases, with more than 193 cases reported to date in 22 states, not including Tennessee, the release said. One death was reported in Illinois. 

The release said that the illnesses do not appear to be caused by an infectious disease since there is no presence of bacteria or another infectious agent, which is tested for before confirming a case of a vaping-associated illness. 

RELATED: Illinois patient's death may be first in US tied to vaping

RELATED: Doctors suspect vaping behind dozens of lung illnesses in US

"According to the CDC, e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products, " KCHD said in the release. "E-cigarettes and other vaping devices, however, are not harmless. They are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products."

This is a developing story. 10News will continue to update it. 

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