A teenager from Southeast Alaska is the first person identified with a lung injury related to e-cigarette use or vaping, the Department of Health and Social Services said in a press release Tuesday morning.

According to the health department, the teen is currently hospitalized but their condition is improving. The teen reported regularly vaping nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC — products that supposedly came from outside of Alaska.

DHSS says patients with an e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury, referred to as "EVALI," experience symptoms like coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include fever, chills and weight loss. Patients may also have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

As of November, officials say there have been nearly 2,300 EVALI cases and 47 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are fortunate that we haven’t identified a case of EVALI in Alaska until now, but it’s not surprising that we have joined the rest of the nation in this outbreak," said Alaska Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink. "This case heightens our concern about Alaskans who continue to use these products."

Health officials say people should follow the CDC's advice to stay away from e-cigarettes and vaping products, specifically those containing THC and products bought from the black market or obtained from family and friends.

The department says the exact chemical causing EVALI hasn't been determined.

"The safest option is to not vape," Zink said.

Zink advises people to talk with family and friends about the health risks associated with vaping. Those who do smoke or vape, Zink says, should reach out to a health care provider or Alaska's Tobacco Quit Line.

"Further, people should not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer," DHSS said.

As for health care providers, DHSS says they should contact the Alaska Section of Epidemiology to report a case with unexplained lung injury and recent use of vaping products. 

Alaska's Tobacco Quit Line can be contacted at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669. For more information on vaping-associated lung injuries, visit the Department of Health and Social Services website.

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