Vaping New York

A man smokes an electronic cigarette in this 2014 photo.

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Montana has its first confirmed case of the severe lung illness associated with vaping that has killed at least eight people and injured another 530 people in the U.S.

A Yellowstone County person in their 30s is the first person in Montana known to have the illness. State and RiverStone Health officials confirmed the case Friday morning.

Officials with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services later said in an interview they began investigating the case soon after the Yellowstone resident was hospitalized in August.

The person, who has a history of vaping nicotine and THC, is now recovering from home.

State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said health officials are still investigating other potential cases of the illness in Montana.

“We will not be surprised if there’s more confirmed cases but I really couldn’t give you a number because it’s changing constantly,” Holzman said.

Gallatin County Public Health Officer Matt Kelley said as of Friday there weren’t any potential cases in Gallatin County that he was aware of.

As the national investigation into what’s making people sick continues, there hasn’t been one ingredient or product tied to the illness.

The CDC reports that products used could include a number of substances, including THC, CBD, nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

People within the vape industry have said their products are safe and the harm is coming from people tweaking what they’ve bought with their own ingredients or from black market sellers.

“The simple bottom line is we disagree with that conclusion,” Holzman said. “I don’t think we have clear info on what is the exact cause.”

He said anyone who vapes should stop.

State senior epidemiologist Lisa Richidt said it takes time to confirm cases by ruling out any other potential causes of the pulmonary illness. She said as the national investigation continues, the definition of a case continues to evolve.

In the health department release Friday, Gov. Steve Bullock called the case deeply concerning, “especially given the rapid increase in young people using e-cigarettes.”

“Montana is supporting the national investigation to determine what is making people sick, while also looking at options on how we can take action without waiting on Washington,” Bullock said.

Health officials would not comment on what Bullock meant by “take action.”

In an emailed response, a spokesperson with the governor’s office said the Governor’s Office and DPHHS have been “engaging in ongoing discussions” surrounding the national investigation into the illness.

“Including looking at actions by other states, supporting the CDC surveillance effort, increasing information about e-cigarettes in our tobacco education work, and increasing communications with public health offices across the state to ensure the public gets the information they need.”

According to the CDC, the illness has been reported in 38 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Last week, health officials within Wyoming and Idaho also announced their first confirmed cases.

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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