CDC reports 193 cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping

by Kate Evans

Some 193 potential cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette use and vaping have been reported by 22 states this year between June 28 and August 20, announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. Cases have primarily been among adolescents and young adults. One death was reported in Illinois in an adult.

States reporting cases of severe lung illness related to vaping or e-cigarette use include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, with additional states pending verification.

West Virginia and Maryland  have not reported any cases as of yet.

The CDC and states haven’t identified a cause for the recent surge in severe lung illness but said that all reported cases involved e-cigarette products use or vaping. Current evidence does not indicate that an infectious disease is the primary cause of the illness.

“In many cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea and fatigue as well,” said CDC officials in a press release.

Illinois reported the hospitalization of 22 patients with unexplained severe respiratory symptoms after vaping or e-cigarettes use and is investigating an additional 12 possible cases, CDC officials said in a transcript of an August 23 teleconference.

Illinois officials said in a press release that many patients   acknowledged the recent use of THC-containing compounds or tetrahydrocannabinol, the oil contained in marijuana.   In Illinois the ages of the patients involved have ranged from 17 to 38 with an average age of 23. Most have been men.

Investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases. CDC official Dr. Brian King said that e-cigarettes   aerosols can contain a variety of potential harmful ingredients such as ultrafine particulates, heavy metals like lead and cancer-causing chemicals.

CDC officials said that it’s not clear if the cases have a common cause or if they’re different diseases with similar presentations. The Wisconsin and Illinois Health Departments have asked the CDC for assistance in their state investigations of the illness.

The CDC is working with state health officials on the ongoing investigations, technical and laboratory assistance and gathering information on the vaping substances and products used, where they were acquired and the frequency of patient use. Some states have reported possible and not yet confirmed cases of the severe lung illness.