With the rapid increase in vaping-related illnesses, the North Dakota Department of Health has been turning to their new tipline to get more information. The problem is self-reporters are leaving out information to confirm cases.
In an effort to properly diagnose the rise in respiratory diseases believed to be linked to vaping, the DOH is struggling to confirm many of the cases in the state.
Within the first 72 hours of the vaping tip line being open, more than 40 cases were reported to the Department of Health. A promising response. However, what’s standing out is the information NOT being collected. Specifically contact information.
“People are, most of them are anonymously reporting. Which is fine, but then that doesn’t allow us to do some follow up to see whether this person meets a case definition provided by CDC,” said Epidemiologist Codi Pinks.
Internal speculation says individuals aren’t comfortable identifying themselves in these cases.
While identifying oneself isn’t required, it’s become a hurdle.
In order to confirm a case or even a connection, the reporter must have a history of vaping and actually be sick. Many times, that info is either withheld or no contact info is offered to confirm.
“We’re not looking at it from a regulatory standpoint. We’re just trying to gather information so can have a better understanding of what is happening, especially what’s happening in North Dakota,” said Pinks.
Of the 51 reports, North Dakota has had four confirmed cases of vaping related cases, with five probable cases. Focused in Burleigh, Morton, Cass, and Williams Counties.
Healthcare officials are reminding informants that their contact information won’t and can’t be used outside of the Department of Health. Self-reporters can continue to inform the DOH of vaping-related illnesses at their tipline at ndhealth.gov/vaping.