DOH confirms 1st case of vaping-related illness in PH

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injury (Evali) in the Philippines Friday, November 15.

The case was confirmed in a 16-year-old girl from the Visayas who had been using e-cigarettes for 6 months while also smoking regular cigarettes, the DOH said in a statement Friday. 

The dual-user patient was admitted to the hospital on October 21 after reporting severe shortness of breath. According to the DOH, the girl required oxygen supplementation and, eventually, admission to the intensive care unit. Doctors initially suspected the disease to be infectious, but confirmed it was Evali after further evaluation. 

According to guidelines set by US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients should be admitted when they experience decreased oxygen saturation and respiratory distress. CDC standards also say patients with other pulmonary complications aside from suspected Evali should be admitted and put under surveillance for the vaping-related illness. 

The 16-year-old patient has since been discharged from the hospital, but the DOH is still coordinating with her attending physician for updates on the case. 

This marks the first confirmed Evali case in the Philippines. In the United States, a vaping epidemic was declared by the surgeon general after complications befell mostly young e-cigarette users. At least 39 have died and 2,000 sickened there due to vaping-related lung illness. (READ: U.S. identifies likely culprit of vaping illness outbreak)

"All e-cigarette users should seek immediate medical help and ask their doctors for ways to quit these harmful products. No e-cigarette product should be accessible to young children and adolescents, who are uniquely susceptible to the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine. I urge non-users not to even try e-cigarettes at all," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a statement Friday.

The DOH in October urged medical practitioners to include vaping in their line of questioning when recording patients' medical histories.

This would help in capturing data on vaping-related disorders and also guide policy-making on e-cigarettes, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The DOH is facing a temporary setback in its implementation of an administrative order that regulates e-cigarettes, following the issuance of court injunctions against DOH Administrative Order (AO) No. 2019-0007.

The AO, released on June 14, requires manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of e-cigarettes to first secure a license to operate from the Food and Drug Administration before going into business. (READ: E-cigarettes: 5 things to know)

The matter is still being heard in court. – Rappler.com

Reports of suspected Evali cases can be sent to DOH at ecigarettesurveillance@doh.gov.ph.