As multiple agencies continue to investigate the vaping epidemic that's caused hundreds of illnesses across the country, Ocean County Health Officials are urging everyone to stay away from e-cigarette products.

They're also expanding their campaign to educate and spread awareness of the risks associated with vaping.

People who've gotten sick experience pain in the lungs, coughing and shortness of breath along with having gastrointestinal issues.

The OCHD cites statistics from the CDC that since September 17, 2019, 530 cases of severe respiratory disease and 7 deaths have been reported from 38 states.

New Jersey did not report any deaths, but nine people with a history of vaping have been admitted to hospitals across the state with close to two dozen more cases being investigated.

"This latest health concern associated to e-cigarette use demands an urgent response and that's why the Ocean County Health Department is expanding its campaign to educate and spread awareness of these serious risks," Ocean County Freeholder Gerry Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health, said. "We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to stay at the forefront of this developing epidemic and keep our residents informed."

The OCHD said that the biggest challenge so far for public health officials is identifying the specific cause of these lung injuries.

The CDC is still trying to determine which ingredient or device may be causing the problem in these cases.

The majority of patients have reported using vaping products containing either THC, nicotine or a combination of both.

The OCHD said another concern is that some people are purchasing these devices and products off the street or adding substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

Until investigators uncover what's making people sick, the OCHD is recommending that you stop using all e-cigarette or vaping products.

"The Ocean County Health Department is strongly urging everyone, but especially teens, young adults and women who are pregnant to refrain from using e-cigarette products," Daniel E. Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, said. "We are really concerned for our teens. From 2017 to 2018 there was a 78 percent increase among high school students using e-cigarette products and a 48 percent jump by middle school students. That's a large number of young people who need to be made aware of these serious health risks from vaping - it really could save their life."

Most of the patients diagnosed with lung injury associated with vaping complain of pain in the lungs, cough or a shortness of breath.

Some patients have gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and vomiting.

Anyone that has recently used an e-cigarette or vaping product and has any of these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

"Don't wait if you think you may be demonstrating any of these symptoms. This is a serious health issue that needs medical attention," Regenye said. "And even if you're not sick, it's time to make a serious effort to stop using e-cigarettes.

For more information about e-cigarette and vaping health risks, or would like to schedule a vaping education program, visit the Ocean County Health Department website at www.ochd.org.

The most up-to-date information can be found by visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.

Additionally, please check out our new website at www.phu2.org, to access and learn more about our Public Health is You Too! campaign to help equip you to take simple steps to improve your health.

More Jersey Shore News: