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SALT LAKE CITY — The first case of a rare blood-clotting condition thought to be linked to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been diagnosed in Utah.
A male patient was recently diagnosed with vaccine-induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT, at the University of Utah Hospital, U. health officials said in a Wednesday news release.
The patient, who is under the age of 50, was treated and is now recovering at home, according to Dr. Yazan Abou-Ismail, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology at the University of Utah.
"He continues to do well and feel well," Abou-Ismail said at a Wednesday news conference about the case.
The blood clot condition led to a nationwide pause on administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last month after six cases were reported among over 6 million people who received the vaccine. The pause was lifted on April 23 after federal regulators determined the vaccine's continued use is safe.
The man got the vaccine earlier in April, and about 10 days after he started experiencing leg pain symptoms, Abou-Ismail said. He went to an emergency room, where doctors discovered he had a low blood platelet count and deep vein thrombosis, Abou-Ismail added. The man was started on blood thinners and was discharged.
However, a few days later, the man experienced some chest pains, so he went back to the emergency room, Abou-Ismail said. With the timeline and symptoms, doctors immediately suspected the man could be experiencing a side effect of the vaccine, and he was diagnosed with VITT last week, Abou-Ismail said.
Within about 48 hours, the man's platelet count normalized, and his other symptoms resolved, so he was again discharged. Doctors followed up with him several days ago and he continues to improve, Abou-Ismail said.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 17 cases of VITT in the United States suspected to be linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of about 8 million doses administered, according to Abou-Ismail. All of those cases have been in female patients.
The Utah case is the third U.S. case in a male that has been highly suspected as VITT, but the CDC hasn't confirm them as such, Abou-Ismail said. The Utah man was diagnosed with VITT by doctors at the U., but officials with the CDC have indicated they want to investigate the case further.
Abou-Ismail and Dr. Richard Orlandi, the U.'s Associate Chief Medical Officer for Ambulatory Health, reiterated that the chances of developing the blood clotting condition from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is extremely rare. The risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms from the disease is much higher than being diagnosed with VITT, Orlandi said.
Recognizing the symptoms of VITT early is important in treating the condition, Abou-Ismail said. Anyone who experiences headaches, blurry vision, seizures or leg pain in the weeks after they receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is encouraged to contact their doctor.
Although the condition can be serious, if it is recognized early, it is treatable. After the pause, the CDC released guidelines on how to treat the condition, and if treated properly, it should take care of the condition for patients, Abou-Ismail said.
Abou-Ismail said the man who was diagnosed with VITT in Utah isn't expected to have any long-lasting side effects.
Abou-Ismail and Orlandi said health officials make an effort to be transparent about cases of VITT so that members of the public will continue to have faith in vaccines and the health care system.
The University of Utah encourages people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Orlandi added.
"We will continue to have faith in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. … The benefits far outweigh the risks," he said.