Flu season may impede investigation of vaping illnesses

The 2019-20 flu season could complicate efforts to diagnose and track vaping-related lung illnesses in the U.S., health experts told STAT.

The season will bring an uptick in flu and other respiratory illnesses, which often feature the same symptoms as the vaping illnesses, including shortness of breath and cloudy spots on lung X-rays.

"It's going to be difficult to tease apart a bad flu case and a vaping case," Sean Callahan, MD, a pulmonologist at Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health, told STAT

The CDC is asking physicians to report suspected cases of vaping-related illness after they've ruled out the possibility of other illnesses, such as the flu. This process may become difficult for physicians if patients who report vaping also test positive for the flu or other respiratory illnesses, health officials said. 

The CDC recommends physicians assess patients with respiratory issues and a history of vaping for both respiratory infections and vaping-related illnesses, a CDC spokesperson told STAT. Physicians may need to treat patients for both illnesses if they cannot reach a definitive diagnosis. 

To view the full report, click here.

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