Mesa County has not yet seen any cases of a severe lung illness linked to e-cigarettes and vaping, but Mesa County Public Health is still warning residents of the dangers of using those products.
In just over a month since the illness first started to appear, roughly 450 cases and three fatalities have been reported across 33 states. Two of those cases are in Colorado on the Front Range, according to a report released last week by Mesa County Public Health.
Kelsey Fife, health promotion specialist at Mesa County Public Health, said her concern is that smokers often underestimate their odds of contracting any illness or disease related to the habit.
"It's concerning because I think there remains a disconnect," she said.
The health department's report states that the best way to avoid the illness is to stop using vape products and e-cigarettes. However, Fife recognizes that many people use the products to help get off of cigarettes and that quitting smoking is a difficult process. For help in quitting smoking, call the state hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit coquitline.org.
Local public health agencies, the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating the cause of the illness, including examining all products associated with vaping and e-cigarettes. People should never buy products off the street or modify them to use unintended substances, the report stated.
Fife said the unknown cause of the illness is another factor that could lead from people to continue using the products.
"It's challenging when there is still a lot of questions as to what is causing it," she said.
Mesa County Public Health is closely monitoring the issue and Fife said she is constantly receiving updates from state partners and her colleagues gathering information in the field.
Symptoms of the illness include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing and possible fever.
Fife said the county is seeing an increase in vaping and e-cigarette usage with the majority of growth coming from young adults between the ages of 18-24.
"Our numbers are higher among young people," Fife said.