A teenager in Alaska has officially become the state’s first case of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, or EVALI. Until now, The Last Frontier was the only state without a reported case of the vaping-related illness, health officials said this week.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) on Tuesday confirmed the case of EVALI in a teen from Southwest Alaska. The patient, who was not identified, remains hospitalized. However, he or she is “clinically improving,” said state health officials in a news release.
“Although DHSS has investigated a total of nine suspected EVALI cases over the past several months, this is the first one that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s case definition for EVALI,” the statement reads, in part.
The sickened teen “regularly” vaped both nicotine and THC products, the latter of which reportedly came from a different state, according to officials.
“Our thoughts are with the patient and family members and we are thankful the patient is steadily recovering,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, in a statement. “We are fortunate that we haven’t identified a case of EVALI in Alaska until now, but it’s not surprising that we have joined the rest of the nation in this outbreak. This case heightens our concern about Alaskans who continue to use these products. The safest option is to not vape. We encourage everyone to talk with their family and friends about the health risks associated with vaping, and if you do smoke or vape, we encourage you to talk to a health care provider about how to quit safely, or you can call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line.”
As of Nov. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said more than 2,000 people across 49 states were sickened as a result of the outbreak. At least 47 people have died as a result. The health agency also for the first time named vitamin E acetate, a compound found in some THC-containing products, as the likely culprit behind the outbreak.