A top U.S. health authority told Congress this week that hundreds of new cases of severe lung injury and disease linked to vaping were reported in the past week alone. Meanwhile, three Southern states have confirmed vaping-related deaths, bringing the death toll to 12.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday public health officials nationwide are seeing “more and more cases” every day. She also warned that “identification of the cause or causes for the outbreak may take substantial time and continuing effort.”
On Thursday, the CDC said the number of cases of lung injury and illness linked to vaping jumped to 805 from 530 previously reported on Sept. 19. The illnesses have been reported in 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Also this week, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi confirmed their first deaths related to the mysterious outbreak, bringing the unofficial toll to 12. Other patients have died in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, California, Illinois and Oregon.
The CDC and state health regulators have not been able to identify a single substance or substances that all of the vaping illnesses have in common. Some of those sickened with lung disease reported vaping THC, while others reported vaping nicotine only.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said that the patient who died “had a history of heavy nicotine vaping, but no reported history of vaping THC.” The agency continues to investigate eight other vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses in the state. “All patients were hospitalized and developed pneumonia with no known infectious cause,” the GDPH said, noting that the patients range in age from 18 to 68.
The Florida Health Department said this week it is investigating 27 cases, including one that resulted in death. The agency hasn’t provided further details.
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported its first vaping-associated death on Thursday. The patient who died was younger than 30 and was one of four cases the state has been investigating. The Mississippi patients range in age from 18 to 34.
NBC News reported that state sources say the number of people suffering from vaping illnesses has soared past 1,000.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received about 300 vape product samples associated with the outbreak and has tested half of them for the presence of nicotine, THC, painkillers, pesticides and other toxins.
So far, about half of the samples containing THC also contain vitamin E acetate, an ingredient that FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless said is an oil that has “no business being in lungs.”
However, Dr. Schuchat told members of Congress that one ingredient cannot explain all of the lung illnesses and investigators believe multiple causes are to blame.