According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the first Nebraska death related to severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes or vaping has been reported. The person was over 65, from the Douglas County Health Department area, and the death occurred in May. 

The state currently has 11 cases of vaping-related illness and two under investigation. The majority are males. Age range is late teens to late 60s. Some of those affected were hospitalized.

Twelve deaths have been reported in 10 other states as part of a multistate outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Prior to the outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping in Wisconsin and Illinois this past August, vaping-associated lung injuries were unreported and not tracked by public health agencies," said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “Once the problem was recognized, states quickly ramped up surveillance and found current cases, but have also discovered cases that occurred before the August outbreak."

Panhandle Public Health District Director Kim Engel said, “We encourage Nebraska providers to consider vaping-related illness in patients presenting with respiratory symptoms and a history of vaping, and to report those suspected cases to our health district by calling Melody Leisy at 308-279-0488 or emailing mleisy@pphd.org.”

DHHS is working with local health departments, the CDC, and other states to investigate and study any reported case to combine all findings at the national level to come up with a complete picture of this health problem.

PPHD recommends avoiding e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly those containing THC. Additionally, youth, young adults, and women who are pregnant should not use e-cigarettes or vaping products. The health district is working with area businesses, hospitals, schools, parks, county fairs, and multi-unit housing to update tobacco/smoke-free policies to include e-cigarettes and vaping.

Engel added, “Unfortunately, this is a concerning trend and we have yet to know all the health complications that may arise for many years. People, especially young people, must be made aware of the devastating effects. There are resources available we can assist with for quitting.”

PPHD urges everyone to help raise awareness of the dangers of vaping, e-cigarettes, and nicotine. Resources are available for Panhandle residents who would like help quitting nicotine-containing products (cigarettes, chew, or e-cigarettes) or tobacco.

Resources include:

• Panhandle Public Health District- http://www.pphd.org/Pages/vaping.htm

• Surgeon General’s website - https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/

• Talking to your healthcare provider about your desire to quit.

• Calling the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) for Spanish Services. Translation services are also available in more than 170 languages. The Quitline's evidence-based combination of free and confidential coaching and a free two-week supply of nicotine replacement therapy helps set tobacco-users up to quit.

• Checking your insurance benefits to see what treatment plans are covered and what additional benefits you qualify for.

• For additional resources and to learn more about the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline, visit www.QuitNow.ne.gov

Funding for this project is provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Panhandle Public Health District is working together to improve the health, safety, and quality of life for all who live, learn, work and play in the Panhandle. Our vision is that we are a healthier and safer Panhandle Community.

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