Feds will remind doctors to ask people with respiratory illness whether and how much they use electronic cigarettes

Federal health agencies are about to warn doctors that they need to ask “every patient with an apparent respiratory infection” about their history of using electronic cigarettes, Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said many of the early symptoms of e-cigarette injury are the same as common respiratory infections and influenza, and flu season has started.

Through Oct. 8, the CDC and state health agencies had confirmed that 1,299 Americans, most of them under 35, had confirmed or probable lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes, and 26 had died.

“Of 573 patients whose vaping habits have been evaluated so far, 76 percent reported using THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,” Reuters reports. Some also used nicotine e-cigarettes; nearly a third said they only used THC products, while 13% said they only vaped nicotine.

“In addition to flu, many respiratory infections, including fungal infections, can cause symptoms that could confound doctors and delay a vaping injury diagnosis,” Reuters notes.