Officials looking for connection between vaping and severe lung disease

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- As of Sept. 12, there have been 35 confirmed cases of severe lung disease in Wisconsin from people who say they recently vaped, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Now the federal level is getting involved with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opening an Emergency Operations Center to address the problem.

"I think it's very good that they're working toward, you know it's better to catch it now than before it gets worse. I think the sooner we catch it and make people more aware of it, that it is not good for you, the better off we'll all be," said HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital Respiratory Therapist Karen Lind.

The Emergency Operations Center is used for public health emergencies.

Senator Tammy Baldwin said last week, Wisconsin is at the forefront of this fight and needs help.

"My home state has been on the frontlines of this outbreak, from identifying the first cases to working with CDC to develop a specific case definition, but we need more help. I'm encouraged to see CDC step up and activate an Emergency Operations Center so the federal government can better provide the resources necessary for understanding the cause of this illness and preventing future cases," she said in a release.

One of the biggest questions surrounding vaping is what exactly is causing these illnesses.

Lind says most cases she sees are pneumonia based, that are made worse by vaping.

"You get inflammation in your lungs when you vape. They swell, air doesn't pass like it would otherwise and then you get short of breath and you breathe faster and you don't breathe as deep. And then you have toxins in there too, and that helps you get pneumonia," explained Lind.

One of the 35 confirmed cases occurred in La Crosse County, with none confirmed so far in the Chippewa Valley.