PHOENIX 3TV/CBS5) -- Arizona state health officials have confirmed three cases of vaping-related illnesses in our state.
The Arizona Department of Health Services, or ADHS, says all of the cases are in Maricopa County. All three patients were hospitalized and have since been released.
"We've been hearing about the anecdotal cases in the community, so we knew that it was probably soon," Dr, Cara Christ, the director of AZDHS. "It just took a while to confirm the cases."
All three of the Maricopa County patients were young adults, and all three vaped both nicotine juice and THC.
While AZDHS works to narrow down the exact product causing the illnesses, Christ is issuing a word of warning.
"Our messaging right now is if you haven't vaped, don't start," she said. "And if you are vaping, don't modify, don't add anything that's not intended by the manufacturer and see your health care provider immediately if you develop symptoms."
Those symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
ADHS is working with county health departments, medical providers and the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center to identify cases in Arizona.
[RELATED: Gov. Ducey raises concern about vaping]
As of Tuesday, Sept. 17, there have been 380 vaping-related respiratory illnesses reported by 36 U.S. states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There have been seven deaths reported nationwide.
At this time, no deaths have been reported in Arizona.
The illness, however, can be serious.
"I've seen personally a couple of pretty severe cases," said Dr. Dany Quan with Maricopa Integrated Health System.
He said he has treated two patients with vaping-related respiratory illness in the last few weeks.
"Difficulty breathing, low oxygen levels, looked like pneumonia, admitted to the hospital because their oxygen levels were low," he said.
One even needed a breathing machine.
It's unknown if Quan's patients are among the three confirmed cases.
Both Quan and Christ say it's likely they'll see more vaping-related illness.
"The human guinea pig," Quan said, describing people who vape. "Everyone out there vaping is really doing their own controlled trials on each other because there was never a lab that tested all of this stuff before it came out. Add this to the list of things you probably shouldn't do."
"We are working with our county and federal partners to identify the cause of this very serious illness," Christ said. "While this investigation is ongoing, we know there is no safe level of nicotine for children. It's important that parents are talking to their children about the dangers associated with vape so they do not use these products. If your child has experimented with vaping, and they are now experiencing any symptoms, please seek medical care immediately."
The investigation has not identified any specific substance or vape product that is linked to all cases.
However, vaping devices containing both nicotine and cannabinoid substances have been identified in this investigation.
Some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days, while others have reported their symptoms developed over several weeks.
To help prevent illness, ADHS offers some guidelines.
- If you are concerned about the health risks, consider not using vape products.
- Children should never, ever use any vape device.
- Women who are pregnant should not use vape products.
- Do not modify vape device or add any substances not intended by the manufacturer.
- If you do use vape and experience symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
ADHS has several online resources for adults and children.
The Arizona Department of Health Services website contains the latest information about the disease, including resources for parents on how to recognize vape devices and talk to their kids about vape.
ADHS also supports the youth awareness campaign Facts Over Flavor, which is geared to Arizona youth and teaches them about the dangers of vaping.