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Second U.S. Death in Spate of Vaping Illnesses

photo of vape smoke

Sept. 4, 2019 -- Oregon health officials are investigating a death from severe lung illness that authorities suspect was caused by using e-cigarettes, according to an announcement made Tuesday by the Oregon Health Authority.

The person, who has not been identified, died in July and reportedly used vaping products with cannabis from a dispensary.

Oregon health officials say the person had symptoms similar those of more than 200 other cases of respiratory illness potentially linked to vaping.

"We don’t yet know the exact cause of these illnesses -- whether they’re caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself," Ann Thomas, MD, public health physician at OHA’s Public Health Division, says in a statement.

The Oregon case is the second death thought to be linked to vaping and is under investigation.

Last month, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the first fatality.

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming, and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” says IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, MD, in a statement. “We requested a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.”

Cases of serious lung illness potentially caused by vaping -- primarily in teens -- have been cropping up around the nation.

The parents of 19-year-old Kevin Boclair in Pennsylvania have come forward to discuss their son’s battle with a severe respiratory condition. Boclair, a user of e-cigarettes, is connected to a heart and lung machine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. His parents say he might need a lung transplant.

Last month, Matt Zohfeld said his 17-year-old son Tryston was recovering after being in a coma for 10 days from a vaping-related lung injury.

As of Aug. 27, 215 similar cases have been reported in 25 states and are under investigation, according to the CDC.

“While some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the respiratory illnesses,” according to an Aug. 30 statement from the CDC. The agency also says that while not one product appears to be involved, “THC and cannabinoids use has been reported in many cases.”

“At this time, the specific substances within the e-cigarette products that cause illness are not known and could involve a variety of substances,” the statement says.

Symptoms of these illnesses include trouble breathing and chest pain. Some cases reported gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea, along with fever or fatigue, according to the CDC.

States are beginning to take action. Michigan today became the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told The Washington Post Tuesday that the ban was ordered after the state health department determined vaping among teenagers was a public health emergency.

The CDC issued a health alert on Aug. 30 warning about the potential dangers of vaping.

“Youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not use e-cigarettes,” according to the CDC. The alert adds that “the available science is inconclusive on whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking.”

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 04, 2019

Sources

Oregon Health Authority.

Illinois Department of Public Health.

PhillyVoice.

CDC.

The Washington Post.

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