From hospital bed to classroom, teen in southern AZ shares vaping story with students

From hospital bed to classroom, teen in southern AZ shares vaping story with students
Doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia after a stay in the ICU. (Source: Kelsey Ferguson)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The CDC has the updated number of confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping.

The new case count is the first national aggregate based on the new CDC case definition developed and shared with states in late August.

As of September 11, 2019, 380 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, were reported by 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The previous case count released by CDC was higher because it reported possible* cases that were still under investigation by states. The current number includes only confirmed** and probable*** cases reported by states to CDC after classification.

CDC is no longer reporting possible cases or cases under investigation and states have recently received the new CDC case definition to classify cases. The classification process requires medical record review and discussion with the treating healthcare providers. The current number is expected to increase as additional cases are classified.

CDC will continue to report confirmed and probable cases as one number because the two definitions are very similar and this is the most accurate way to understand the number of people affected.

*A possible case is one still under investigation at the state level.

**A confirmed case is someone who recently used an e-cigarette product or vaped, developed a breathing illness, and for whom testing did not show an infection. Other common causes of illness have been ruled out as the primary cause.

***A probable case is someone who recently used an e-cigarette product or vaped, developed a breathing illness, and for whom some tests have been performed to rule out infection. Other common causes of illness have been ruled out as the primary cause.

Six total deaths have been confirmed in six states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has not reported any cases but there have been suspected cases. Including one teen in Marana who is now speaking against vaping after it landed her in the hospital.

Kelsey Ferguson said she spent several of her teenage years with a vape in her hand. She started around three years ago at the age of 16, after seeing lots of people around her pick it up.

To her, vaping seemed harmless and a healthy alternative to cigarettes. That is, until a few weeks ago.

“I didn’t think it would happen especially not to me.”

The symptoms seem to hit her all at once. Kelsey said she felt extremely sick and took a trip to Urgent Care first. She would be sent home with a decongestant and some antibiotics. Then, a few days later when her symptoms didn't improve, she went to the emergency room and was later transported to NorthWest Medical Center.

Ferguson spent several days in ICU and 13 days total in the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia after learning she had vaped.

Her symptoms matched hundreds of the mysterious vape-related illnesses popping up around the US, with 6 deaths reported so far due to vaping nicotine or THC.

“While I was in the hospital I got ARDS which is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome so my lungs will never be the same either.” said Ferguson.

Once released from the hospital on September 1st, she had a new lease on life. She would be contacted by a family member who works for the Gila County Health Department to share her story.

“If I could save one kid from going through what I went through it’s worth it.”

Ferguson has now spoken to hundreds of high school students at Miami High School with the Gila County Health Department, sharing her story and encouraging others to quit.

“I got seven devices handed into me," Ferguson said, explaining the some student's response after her talks. "They voluntarily handed them over to me.”

Now she hopes that her message will cause others to actually think about the side effects behind the smoke.

“At least just educate yourself on what it can actually do and what’s In it because it will happen.” said Ferguson.

CDC is currently coordinating a multistate investigation. In conjunction with a task force from the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists and affected states, interim outbreak surveillance case definitions, data collection tools, and a database to collect relevant patient data have been developed and released to states.

CDC continues to provide technical assistance to states, including working closely with affected states to characterize the exposures and the extent of the outbreak.

CDC is providing assistance in epidemiology, disease surveillance, pathologic consultation, clinical guidance development, and communication.

CDC also continues to work closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect information about recent e-cigarette product use, or vaping, among patients and to test the substances or chemicals within e-cigarette products used by case patients.

For information about the collection of e-cigarette products for possible testing by FDA, contact: FDAVapingSampleInquiries@fda.hhs.gov.

To communicate with CDC about this public health response, clinicians and health officials can contact: LungDiseaseOutbreak@cdc.gov.

For information on electronic cigarette products, or vaping, visit: www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.