Posted on Sep 06, 2019, 2 p.m.
Health officials are saying that the cases of vaping related lung illness are surging as Indiana has announced a third linked death, health officials are working to understand the causes.
The number of individuals that have been sickened with a severe lung illness linked to vaping has more than doubled to at least 450 cases across 33 states which includes possibly four deaths according to federal health officials.
“There is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response,” said Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine which calls for doctors to discourage patients from using e-cigarettes and for broader effects to increase public awareness of the harmful effects from vaping.
In the article Christiani writes that while it is not clear which substance(s) are causing the damage, e-cigarette fluids contains at least 6 groups of potentially toxic compounds, which when mixed together could create new toxins.
“While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, who is leading the C.D.C’s investigation into the illness. A chemical is believed to be involved, but they have not been able to identify a single responsible device, product, or substance.
The first cases of lung illness was during April 2019 in Illinois indicating the syndrome emerged sooner than the mid June date cited by officials as when the afflictions began. A broader look at the patient base and syndrome came from details of 53 patients in Wisconsin and Illinois described in the article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Patients were typically “healthy, young, with a median age of 19 years and a majority have been men,” said Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for the Illinois Department of Public Health. 98% were hospitalized, with half requiring admission into ICU, and a third needing ventilation. A range of products and devices were noted to be used including marijuana and nicotine based products.
“The focus of our investigation is narrowing but is still faced with complex questions,” said Ileana Arias, the C.D.C.’s acting deputy director for noninfectious diseases.She added: “We are working tirelessly and relentlessly.”
Particular concern is developing around products that are jury rigged by vaping retailers, or those that have been tampered with and/or mixed by the consumers. Consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products purchased off the street and avoiding buying informally mixed and made devices.
A third death has been confirmed in Indiana from severe lung illness linked to vaping, and there may be a fourth which is being investigated. A person from Illinois and another from Oregon have also died from what appears to be the same illness according to officials. The cause is believed to be a particular chemical or adulterant.
Those afflicted with this lung illness typical are brought to the ER with shortness of breath after several days of flu like symptoms and high fever. In NY 34 people have become ill, and at least 8 case samples showed high levels of vitamin E acetate. Investigators are investigating the oily compound to determine if it has a role in the lung illness. That being said over 100 vaping samples have been tested and were negative for the substance, making the compound only one of many possible causes of the severe lung inflammation.
Officials are suggesting that this surge in illness is a “new phenomenon” and not recognition of a syndrome that may have been developing for years.
Search for the cause of this vaping syndrome involves a multiparty investigation, the challenge to this one is amplified by the many possible chemicals and new compounds that can be created when the chemicals involved in vaping liquids mix, and by the haphazard nature of the lack of industry regulation which leaves a vast black and gray market for e-cigarette products.
The advent of vaping changed how nicotine and marijuana is inhaled which involves the use of high heat to create aerosolized version of the fluids which changes their original compositions into some other than it originally was. E-cigarettes have a range of supporters who suggest that these devices are a safer alternative to traditional smoking based on vaping possibly delivering fewer chemicals through non-fiery combustion.
This “new phenomenon” does make one wonder as to how much legitimate study was conducted on these products involving the possible changes in compounds and their effects on human health. One may even be reminded of how regular cigarettes were once portrayed as being not harmful, and you can even find them as once being doctor recommended not that long ago.
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