Ontario hospitals have reported two new probable cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping, the province’s health ministry confirms.
Ontario health officials also confirm that a near-fatal case in London, Ont., publicized by the local health unit in September meets the Health Canada definition of the disease.
This brings to 11 the number of confirmed or probable cases reported by Health Canada.
The two probable Ontario cases were reported after the province mandated in September that all public hospitals notify the chief medical officer in cases where they suspect a diagnosis of vaping-related severe pulmonary disease.
Health ministry spokesperson Travis Kann said in the two Ontario cases listed as probable, both patients have been discharged from hospital.
Citing patient privacy, he would not provide more details about the probable cases, including where the patients live or the severity of their symptoms.
Officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) — which went public with details about the London case in September — have been awaiting official word from the province that confirms the diagnosis.
Dr. Chris Mackie, MLHU’s medical officer of health, said it’s crucial the province move quickly to report confirmed details about cases as doctors work to learn more about the health effects of vaping.
“I’m happy to see this confirmed,” said Mackie. “It’s good to see the province moving this file ahead.”
A study published Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) contained new details about the London case.
Information about new cases is critical, Mackie says
The patient in the London case hasn’t been identified, but the CMAJ study says the otherwise healthy 17-year-old turned up at a local emergency room with a severe cough, shortness of breath and fever.
The teen vaped heavily in the months leading up to his illness. He spent 47 days in hospital and at one stage of his treatment was on life support.
He is now recovering at home but may have permanent lung damage.
“[The CMAJ report] makes a lot of case details public and helps the medical community understand the details of what they’re seeing, the importance of this can’t be overstated,” said Mackie. “This really helps us to understand the risks and to be more aware in the medical community about this issue.”
He said it’s particularly concerning that in the London case cited in the CMAJ report, the patient wound up with a life-threatening condition after vaping only a few months.
Another concern is that CT scans of the patient in the CMAJ study show patterns of severe inflammation in the lungs.
“It looks like someone has taken a shotgun loaded with birdshot to these lungs,” said Mackie. “This short term illness is not something we see with smoking. That is something that we now know can be associated with vaping.”
Health officials have warned that vaping products use marketing that targets young people.