AUSTIN, Texas - This time last month in Travis County, there were six reported cases of what the CDC calls EVALI, or e-cig or vaping-associated lung injury. Now that number increased to 12 and one person in the state has already died.
“It's common that we are seeing people around the age of 19 or 20 as the ones who are being affected,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical authority at Austin Public Health.
An example would be the case of 17-year-old Whitney Livingston, a Tyler teen who had to fight for her life this past summer.
“She could have almost died. Her oxygen had already dropped all the way. There was pneumonia in both lungs. The doctor said it looked like no pneumonia he'd ever seen,” said her mother Jennifer Audas back in September.
“This is a problem of misinformation from the manufacturers. It has been touted as a safer alternative but there is no proof of that. In fact, the FDA is involved in an investigation into those claims,” said Escott.
Austin Public Health is sending a strong message to not vape at all. To keep parents and the public informed on the latest cases, they are launching a website to provide numbers and resources for parents.
“A lot of them look like other items, highlighters, pens and these sorts of things but ultimately it's important for them to have that conversation with their youth to figure out if they are using it,” said Escott.
Additionally, with the flu season here, Escott said it's important to have a conversation with your doctor if you have used e-cigs or vapes at any point.
“A lot of the symptoms that are associated with vaping or EVALI are the same as flu,” he said.
Nationwide, there are 1,604 reported EVALI cases and 34 people have died.