Wesley Long Hospital doctor speaks about vaping epidemic

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sitting at a computer at Wesley Long Hospital, Dr. Muraly Ramaswamy pulls up an x-ray of a patient diagnosed with a vaping-related illness.

Ramaswamy, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, said that health officials diagnose patients with vaping-related illnesses after ruling out other potential causes of inflammation, including infection or autoimmune disease.

“While there are a lot of clues about what might be causing this, we still do not know as a scientific healthcare community, Ramaswamy said. “We do not know the exact cause, so until that is figured out and we advise all people in the community to not vape at all.”

He pulled up a CT scan of a person on life-support, pointing to a tube in the patient’s chest where both lungs were inflamed.

He explained that many patients will share information about what they are vaping even when it isn’t legal.

“This epidemic is recent and patients have been really sick and they’re being forthcoming with information. We’ve been positively surprised by that,” Ramaswamy said. “Most of our patients are reporting use of THC or marijuana, and many of them say they’ve purchased this off the black market.”

He showed results from treatment six weeks after the initial x-ray, saying that steroids had helped reduce inflammation in one patient.

Cone Health in Greensboro confirmed Thursday morning its first death due to vaping.

Officials at hospitals in the Piedmont-Triad have said they are seeing a spike in the number of patients admitted for pulmonary disease caused by vaping.

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