The number of people afflicted and hospitalized with serious lung disease connected to vaping continues to grow. This week, multiple states reported similar cases, and the toll of confirmed and possible victims has climbed into the dozens. Right now, health officials and outside experts still seem to be in the dark as to what exactly is going on.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Service reported that it had found 15 confirmed cases of the cluster, and suspect another possible 15 cases. In Illinois, health officials reported at least six people with “severe breathing problems after vaping,” and another five possible cases that are being looked into. Earlier this week, Minnesota health officials reported that four similar cases have occurred in the state recently.
And on Friday, the AP reported that health officials and doctors in three other states—New York, California, and Indiana—have found similar cases of lung illness in people with a recent history of vaping. The majority of these cases involve teens and young adults.
“We don’t know what the cost of these health consequences will be, in say 20 years.”
Doctors originally suspected that these patients were suffering from respiratory infections, but the symptoms did not improve after standard antibiotic treatments. After ruling out respiratory infections, doctors looked to environmental factors, and discovered that each of the patients had vaped nicotine or cannabis during the weeks leading up to their hospitalization.
Physicians have not been able to establish any other common thread among these patients, however, and are unsure whether the sudden outbreak of illness can be linked to any specific vaping device or e-liquid.
It’s unclear exactly what the patients — many of whom are young adults — had been inhaling or what type of devices they were using. Nor do doctors know where they had purchased the devices or e-liquids.
Some patients said they’d used e-cigarette devices to inhale both nicotine and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told CBS News. “The vast majority of people who smoke started as children or as young teens, and yet you don’t hear about people getting lung cancer until their 40s, 50s, 60s,” she said. “Think about that compared to what’s happening to these kids now. I’ve never heard of a smoker ending up in the hospital in their teens.”
“The agency is working with state health officials to gather more information on any products or substances used,” said Michael Felberbaum, an FDA spokesperson, to the Times. “We encourage the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected health or product issues to the FDA.”