Health officials in Illinois announced the death of one hospitalized man who they say passed away due to complications related to a “severe respiratory illness” caused by vaping. The man’s passing marks the first documented death possibly caused by the vaping lung illness that’s consuming the US.
As of last week, Illinois officials claimed that at least 22 people in the state had developed the illness. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control suspects at least 153 possible cases have been seen by medical professionals across a dozen states, namely California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and, most recently, Colorado.
"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," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in the announcement.
Doctors aren’t sure what’s causing the illness, only that it’s connected to consuming vape cartridges. Both nicotine and marijuana cartridges are being investigated, as well as whether it’s solely caused by unlicensed and untested black market cartridges, or if tested and legit cartridges are causing it, too. Dangerous pesticide residues, heavy metal contamination, solvent residues, and mycotoxins have all been considered.
"A lot of these cases are seriously ill, hospitalized, on respirators. They're not breathing on their own,” Dr. Tista Ghosh, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Chief Medical Officer, told the press last week. “[W]e expect we may get more reported cases.”
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Illinois health officials also announced that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been called in to help investigate the cause(s) of the vaping lung illness.
“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations,” wrote CDC officials in a statement. “The State Departments of Health are investigating the possible cause of the illness by testing patient specimens and e-cigarette products. State-specific epidemiologic investigations are ongoing.”
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