MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) The number of severe lung disease among people who are vaping in Wisconsin is growing.
Last week, American Family Children's Hospital had its first patient in the pediatric intensive care unit because of vaping. 16-year-old Logan Krahn, from Fort Atkinson, said he began using a Juul, a brand of e-cigarette, because he thought it would be safer than smoking cigarettes. On Thursday, he said what he believed was wrong.
“Two weeks ago, I was admitted to my local hospital with what doctors thought was a severe case of dehydration, it turns out it was pneumonia,” said Logan. “I was then sent to American Family Children’s Hospital where doctors gave me medicine and hooked me up to machines to help me breathe.”
Logan said he was diagnosed with chemical pneumonitis and was linked to vaping.
His mother, Rebecca Krahn, says it was difficult to watch her son go through this.
"I was scared, very scared," she said. "It's not knowing if you're son is going to make it or not."
Logan said he was close to dying and now has life-long damage to his lungs.
“I have a long recovery ahead of me and this experience has changed my life tremendously,” said Logan. “If you don’t smoke or vape right now, please don’t start, but if you do, I urge you to stop and get some help immediately. While quitting might seem difficult, going through this is far worse.”
Numbers released on Thursday from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) show there are 69 confirmed and probable cases of severe lung disease related to vaping in the state. 17 patients' cases are under investigation. Last week there were 60 cases.
“It’s highly likely that many cases we diagnosed as pneumonia in the past, without a clear cause, may have been related to vaping,” said Dr. Vivek Balasubramanian a UW pediatric pulmonologist. “We are looking at those retrospectively to see whether there is any link to vaping-related injuries.”
UW Health experts are calling these severe lung injuries linked to vaping a public health crisis.
"It's devastating to see otherwise healthy children and young adults come down with this horrific disease," said Dr. Brian Williams, a UW Health hospital medicine doctor.
DHS reports most patients in this outbreak of illnesses are adolescents and young adults. Some patients are adults in older age groups.
So far, no deaths have been reported in Wisconsin, but across the nation, there have been 17 deaths.
Health officials said a majority of cases reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices to inhale THC- containing products, such as waxes and oils. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. The cartridges containing THC may contain chemicals or additives that are unknown or unregulated. There were a wide variety of brand names and flavorings were reported.
According to the CDC, roughly 17 percent of vaping-related lung disease cases in the country are from nicotine-only products.
Anyone experiencing unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss should talk to their doctor. Health officials are asking people to stop vaping immediately.
The severe lung illness cases related to vaping were first noticed in Wisconsin in late July. Children's Hospital of Wisconsin reported eight cases of hospitalized teens to DHS.
This is an ongoing investigation and DHS is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, several samples of cartridges used by affected patients in Wisconsin are being tested at Food and Drug Administration laboratories. There was no time given as to when those tests will be completed.