CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A leading UNC pulmonologist said the next months will be challenging as flu season kicks into high gear just as vaping-related lung injuries continue to rise.
"Just as physicians will have a difficult distinguishing between influenza and vaping-related lung injury, patients or users may also have a similar problem," said Dr. Brad Drummond.
The symptoms are nearly identical: coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and fever.
"We're on the forefront of this epidemic as we enter the flu season. There's a lot of uncertainty there," said Drummond. "Understanding how we need to treat e-cigarette users with influenza differently, that's something we're still trying to understand."
Doctors know how to treat the flu. Specialists are learning how to help folks with lung injuries. The big concern is if the two collide.
Drummond said medical professionals aren't even completely sure how help someone hit with a one-two punch.
Both cause respiratory problems.
Lung injuries have already killed 26 people in this country. It's landed more than a thousand people in the hospital and some even had to be placed on ventilators.
Doctors believe when a person vapes, droplets of heated oil stream down into the lungs and deposit there causing inflammation.
"The CDC and FDA have not identified the cause or causes of lung injuries" and "To date - national and state data suggest that products containing THC are linked to most of the cases," the CDC said in a tweet.
Last year in North Carolina, more than 200 people died from the flu.
Doctors said the best ways to protect yourself from the both is to get the flu shot and stop using vaping products.
If a person continues and gets sick, it's important to get to a clinic quickly, be honest about using and request an influenza test.
"We're not here to judge what you're doing, but we want to ensure that we have all the necessary information to be able to make the right clinical decision and clinical test to improve your health," said Drummond.
There have been reports of vaping-related deaths in North Carolina.
Those have not been confirmed by the CDC, but we're being told the federal agency is analyzing that now.
Doctors warn vaping illness symptoms similar to flu