530 Sick, 7 Dead from Mysterious Vaping Illnesses

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Sept. 19, 2019 — Cases of vaping-related lung illness in the U.S. have climbed to 530 this week, up from 380 last week, with seven deaths so far and more expected, the CDC said Thursday.

While a profile of the patients is emerging, no single product or substance has been linked with the ongoing epidemic, federal officials say.

The 530 cases in 38 states and one territory include both confirmed and probable ones, said Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC. The seven deaths are from six states.

"No consistent e-cigarette product, additive, or brand has been identified in all cases," she said.

The update comes as new data reveals the rate of vaping nicotine among teens has doubled in the past 2 years. According to the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey, 25% of 12th graders, 20% of 10th graders, and 9% of eighth graders reported vaping nicotine in the past month.

For its investigation, the FDA has collected more than 150 vaping product samples, according to Mitch Zeller, JD, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products. The agency is analyzing the samples for a broad range of substances, including THC and other cannabinoids, opioids, cutting agents, pesticides, and other toxins.

The FDA's enforcement arm — the Office of Criminal Investigations — has begun a parallel investigation, Zeller said. It will focus on the supply chain and figuring out what is making people sick.

He didn’t know when federal officials might determine which product or products are to blame.

"Identifying any product in the samples is just one piece of the puzzle," he said.

Emerging Profile

Based on data on the cases so far, nearly three-quarters of the cases are male and more than half are under 25 years of age, Schuchat said. Patients typically report coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and belly pain.

"Some have reported the use of e-cigarettes using only nicotine." Others report using THC, or a combination, she said.

Patients may have been exposed to a variety of products, and some have been too ill to share information for the investigation, she said.

A growing number of media companies are shunning vaping advertisements. Following the lead of CNN, which announced it will no longer run ads for vaping products, CBS, WarnerMedia, and Viacom are also pulling the plug on e-cigarette advertising.

At least one state — New York — has banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and Michigan is considering a similar ban. The Trump administration has also asked the FDA to ban the sale of non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.

Federal officials again pleaded for people to stop vaping until they know more about what is triggering the lung injuries.

Anyone with information is urged to report it to the online safety reporting portal for the FDA and National Institutes of Health, Zeller said, at www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 19, 2019

Sources

Briefing, CDC, Sept. 19, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Researchers sound alarm on potential health effects of vaping.”

CNBC: “CBS, WarnerMedia, Viacom drop all e-cigarette advertising, including from market leader Juul.”

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