According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 129 cases of pulmonary disease among people who vape are under investigation in the state of Texas, as of a Sept. 30 report.

Of those 129 cases, 36 are probably and 39 have been confirmed to be related to vaping.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman with the department, said people should be aware of the recent cases connecting vaping to illnesses and “consider if it’s something they should be doing.”

He said the department is receiving “pretty regular” reports of new cases, and is advising people to be aware of the news while health departments across the county examine the cause.

“First of all, we’re encouraging teens and young adults and pregnant woman not to vape at all, regardless of the ongoing investigations on these cases,” he said. “And if you don’t use tobacco, don’t start vaping now. If you do, be cautious.”

Brittany Burgess, the deputy assistant director of special projects and staff epidemiologist with the Victoria County Public Health Department, said she has not been aware of any cases connecting vaping and illness in Victoria County.

Meanwhile, across Texas, a number of authorities and organizations are taking steps to ban vaping.

In an Oct. 1 memo from Texas A&M University, University System Chancellor John Sharp directed presidents of each of the 11 universities and the directors of the eight state agencies within the Texas A&M University System to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping “as soon as possible.”

“This health threat is serious enough that I want to see the ban include every building, outside space, parking lot, garage and laboratory within the Texas A&M System,” the memo said.

Burgess said the health department can’t make a firm opinion about whether vaping should be banned entirely because it is still working to see whether there is a clear association between vaping and these recent respiratory issues.

But, she said, the public health department is discouraging its practice.

“Because there are many cases of individuals using vaping then having some form of a respiratory illness, we’ve discouraged people from using until we have time to gather cases and conduct an investigation,” she said.

She said she encourages people who do use vaping products to report to a doctor immediately if they begin to experience respiratory distress symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.

“Don’t ignore any symptoms,” she said. “It’s important people take a proactive step.”

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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