London

Ontario reports 2 new 'probable' cases of vaping-related illness

Ontario hospitals have reported two new probable cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping — one in Woodstock and another in Burlington — Ontario's health ministry confirms.

Hospitals in Woodstock and Burlington report possible cases; London case confirmed as vaping-related

Provincial health officials in Ontario have confirmed they've received information about two probable cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping. (Tony Dejak/The Associated Press)

Ontario hospitals have reported two new probable cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping — one in Woodstock and another in Burlington — Ontario'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. 

One case was reported by Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington; the other at Woodstock General Hospital.

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 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 to confirm the diagnosis as vaping-related 

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. 

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. 

Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, says it's crucial for the province to make public new information about vaping-related illnesses. (Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press)

"[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."

Severe lung damage flagged in CMAJ study

Mackie points out that while the vaping industry often claims its products are safer than smoking cigarettes, there simply isn't enough information to confirm this. 

"When you start smoking, it can take years or even decades to have a very serious impact on your life," he said. "Whereas in these situations we're seeing after just a few months life-threatening, and in some cases in the U.S., life-ending effects from vaping within a few months."

Health officials have warned that vaping products use marketing that targets young people.

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.