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Health department reports first vaping-injury death in Minnesota

The person who died suffered a serious lung injury.

Vaping is the underlying cause of a death in Minnesota for the first time, according to a release from the Minnesota Department of Health on Friday. 

Health officials say that the patient who died was over 65 years old and died in August "after a long and complicated hospitalization," the release says. The patient had a history of lung disease, with Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield saying the person suffered a "severe lung injury" that was "associated with vaping illicit THC products." 

The death comes on the heels of a rash of serious lung injuries linked to vaping throughout the United States. 

In Minnesota, there have been 17 patients with confirmed serious lung injuries connected to vaping, and 15 additional cases are under investigation. The release says the patients have required hospital stays for days to weeks, many of them being treated in intensive care units. 

Patients interviewed by the health department confirmed they vaped illicit THC products prior to suffering lung ailments. 

Nationwide, there are more than 450 confirmed cases, with 33 states also connecting many lung injuries to vaping cannabinoid products. 

"At this point no cases in Minnesota have been associated with use of cannabis vaporization products acquired solely through Minnesota’s medical cannabis program," the release notes. 

Minnesota patients have reported the following symptoms of lung injury:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends people avoid vaping illicit THC products. Anyone with a history of vaping currently experiencing lung injury symptoms should seek medical care and avoid using e-cigarettes and other vaping products. 

“This tragedy and the serious injuries suffered by others show the stakes of this outbreak," said Gov. Tim Walz in a statement. "Health officials are working hard to determine a cause and share information to prevent additional injuries. As that work continues, I urge Minnesotans to follow their guidance."

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