Alberta physicians told to watch for and report any cases of mystery vaping illness
'It's a very serious situation,' Health Canada director says, after hundreds of cases and 2 deaths in U.S.
Alberta is taking steps to start tracking a mysterious vaping-related illness that is confounding health officials south of the border.
More than 200 people in the United States have become sick with serious respiratory problems but, so far, no similar cases have turned up in Canada.
Still, Canadians are being warned.
"It's a very serious situation," said James Van Loon, director general of Health Canada's tobacco control directorate. "And there have been two deaths linked to this."
The federal agency issued an alert this week and is asking provinces to start actively looking for the vaping-related illness that has become increasingly common in the U.S.
In Alberta, the provincial government has made it a notifiable disease, meaning doctors are now required to report any cases they find.
"What we're hoping to do by this is to make sure that all of our physicians know what we're looking for and how to report it so that we would get reports of any of these illnesses if they happen to occur in Alberta," said chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
All doctors across the province are to receive letters by the end of the week informing them of the mandatory reporting requirement.
"It's too early to say whether or not it will come to Canada," Hinshaw noted, but she said it's important for health officials here to be on the lookout.
"We want to do this in case we do have cases here," she said.
Hinshaw urged anyone who vapes and has health concerns to see a doctor.
With files from Jennifer Lee