Woman using an electronic cigarette and blowing a cloud of vapor

Lung Illness Outbreak Linked to Vaping

An outbreak of more than 1,200 confirmed reports of lung illnesses and 26 deaths across the U.S. are linked to the use of vaping products, according to an investigation by federal health officials.

Due to the growing scope of the outbreak, officials are advising consumers to stop using all e-cigarette and vaping products.

The number of cases continues to rise as consumers become aware that vaping products can cause lung illness. Those that have used vape products should watch for symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain. Patients involved in the investigation have also reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and abdominal pain.

In Michigan alone, 35 cases of vaping-associated lung illness have been confirmed since August 2019. Most of the individuals were hospitalized with severe respiratory illness, and all of them had abnormal lung x-rays or CT scans. Patients range in age from 16 to 67 years old. All of them had used an e-cigarette or vaping device within days or weeks of getting sick.

The outbreak claimed the life of its first Michigan resident — an adult male — as of Oct. 2, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Vaping is the term given to the act of using a hand-held, battery-powered device to heat a concentrated liquid to the point that it vaporizes, and then inhaling the vapor. It’s often marked as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices.  In fact, the FDA has issued a consumer update to warn the public to stop using certain products.

The liquid consumed can be nicotine-based, as it is in e-cigarettes, or can be derived from marijuana and contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD). The liquid can also contain other oils, additives and flavorings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA are actively investigating the national lung illness outbreak. However, a specific chemical or product causing the lung illness has not yet been identified.

Health officials are offering the following recommendations:

  • Stop using e-cigarettes and vaping products, particularly those that contain THC.
  • If you use e-cigarettes to quit cigarette smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes.
  • Do not buy e-cigarettes or vaping products from family, friends or illicit sources.
  • Young adults and pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes or vaping products.
  • Adults using tobacco products should not switch to e-cigarettes or vaping products.

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Photo credit: diego_cervo

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