The federal government is boosting its efforts to understand why so many people are developing severe respiratory disease linked to vaping — an epidemic that the country’s top health officials called “distressing.”

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in joint announcements that the number of vaping illnesses continues to grow, with 215 cases so far reported in 25 states. Meanwhile, other cases continue to appear on the government’s radar.

The investigation has taken on a special urgency after the vaping-related death of one person in Illinois and others on life support after developing rare forms of bacterial pneumonia and other severe pulmonary distress.

Some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to vaping, but exactly what is causing the illnesses remains unknown, the CDC said.

“In many cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms, including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea, or other symptoms such as fevers or fatigue,” according to the CDC.

There are also several cases under investigation of patients who acknowledged vaping marijuana/cannabis products, the agency said.

Investigators are finding that while the cases of respiratory illness appear similar, their common cause remains unclear. It’s also possible that the patients may have different diseases with similar symptoms. Both the CDC and the FDA are providing consultation to state health departments and working closely with them to gather information on vape brands and e-liquids involved in the reported cases, and where the products were obtained.

“CDC is helping involved states investigate whether the illnesses may be linked to specific devices, ingredients or contaminants in the devices, or substances associated with e-cigarette product use, with the FDA’s assistance,” the FDA said in its announcement.

The agencies also have launched an outreach alerting medical professionals and institutions to the investigation and urging them to report any illnesses that fit its description of the lung injuries to state health authorities.

“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 FDA said in its announcement. The agency said it continues to analyze the contents of the samples it has collected so far to see whether they contain nicotine, THC or other cannabinoids, or other chemical substances and ingredients.

Meanwhile, the CDC is advising most people to avoid vaping. “Regardless of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products,” the agency said.

Anyone who continues to vape should closely monitor their health for symptoms of pulmonary disease, such as cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain and seek medical help immediately if problems develop, the CDC said.

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett are currently representing several individuals who are suing JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Most of the plaintiffs became addicted to JUUL as minors and some of them have started smoking regular cigarettes to satisfy their nicotine addiction when JUUL pods aren’t accessible.

Additional source: The New York Times

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