Riverside County health officials Monday urged e-cigarette users to stop using the devices amid nationwide reports of severe respiratory ailments — and even deaths — associated with vaping.
"Until we figure this out, if you don't need to vape, don't," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's public health officer. "We don't understand what's causing this yet."
According to the physician, five people in Riverside County have been treated for pulmonary ailments believed to be directly tied to vaping.
Kaiser said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's ongoing investigation into the rash of vaping-related illnesses, with the assistance of states' public health agencies, points to the gravity of the potential health threat.
Symptoms documented by the CDC include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss.
Roughly 450 potential cases have been identified, with five fatalities, including one in Los Angeles County last week, according to officials.
"Some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days, while others have reported that their symptoms developed over several weeks," the CDC stated in a health advisory released Aug. 30. "Many patients have required medical treatment with supplemental oxygen. Some required assisted ventilation. Some patients have been treated with corticosteroids with demonstrated improvement. Evidence does not suggest an infectious disease is the cause of the severe pulmonary disease."
A large number of patients used cannabinoid, or marijuana-based, products in their e-cigarette devices prior to becoming ill.
E-cigarettes, also known as "vapes," "mods" and "electronic nicotine delivery systems," contain battery-operated cartridges that deliver aerosolized streams of liquefied nicotine, cannabis and other heated chemicals considered an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Vaping is treated like smoking at Riverside County facilities, and users are restricted to using their devices in designated locations outside buildings.