Sask. Ministry of Health watching for vaping-related illness

The Ministry of Health is monitoring intensive-care units across the province for vaping-related illness, a move prompted by illness and deaths abroad that are connected to vaping.

No recorded cases in Sask., government says, but intensive care units being monitored

Any possible vaping-related illnesses in Saskatchewan intensive care units must be reported immediately, the province's health ministry said Friday. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is now monitoring intensive care units across the province for vaping-related illness, but says there have been no cases in the province so far.

"I am concerned with the recent incidents of vaping related illnesses, as well as the high rates of vaping we are seeing among Saskatchewan youth," Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said in a release Friday.

"Earlier this week I directed Saskatchewan public health officials to monitor all cases as they present in intensive care units."

Any medical staff who encounter a severe respiratory episode that may be due to vaping are to report the incident immediately.

The move comes as vaping has been under scrutiny both in Canada and beyond. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury related to e-cigarettes as of Sept. 17, including at least seven deaths. 

An eighth death was reported by U.S. media outlets on Thursday.

Dr. Saqib Shahab of the Saskatchewan Health Authority said the question of whether vaping-related illnesses were passed off as something else is being explored in the United States.

"There's two ways of looking at it: one is that vaping overall is a relatively recent phenomenon; over the last two to three years is when it's really picked up," he said. 

"Secondly the fact that many people have added cannabis products to vaping may also be something that's been happening.… That's also another line of inquiry that's going on in the U.S."

Shahab said in many cases people admitted to hospital were using unregulated or tampered vaping devices.

He said a reporting process will be in place until medical professionals in Canada and the United States have a better understanding of the underlying risk factors.

Shahab said there's no reason for someone who's not already a smoker to take up vaping and cautioned against doing so.

This week, officials in Ontario said a teenager was put on life support after using a vaping device, in what public health officials say is the first reported case of illness linked to the practice in Canada.

And India banned e-cigarettes on Wednesday, saying the move was intended to ensure there was no "vaping" epidemic in the country.

Health Canada has issued a directive to health-care professionals here, telling them to ask patients about their vaping use and if they have any trouble breathing or shortness of breath.

In his Friday release, Reiter encouraged parents to talk with children about the potential risks associated with vaping.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, here are some symptoms to watch for if you, or someone you know, is vaping:

  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain before hospitalization.
  • Mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Other symptoms such as fevers or fatigue.

With files from Kate Dubinski and Adam Miller


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