Last month, we reported on a group of teenagers who were experiencing symptoms of lung disease, which appeared to be linked to vaping. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services had reported that eight teenagers were hospitalized during the month of July with serious damage to their lungs. All the teens reported vaping prior to their hospitalizations.
Now, similar symptoms possibly linked to vaping are being reported throughout the US, with the majority of cases arising in the Midwest. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 153 possible cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping. Cases have been reported in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
The only common thread among all the cases is that the patients reported using vaping products that contain either nicotine or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
These cases have typically involved patients who arrive at emergency departments or hospitals with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain. The illness presents similarly to a bad respiratory infection, but does not improve with the usual treatment for such an infection, such as antibiotics.
In addition to the cases reported by the CDC, NBC News conducted its own investigation and found additional cases in Tennessee, Ohio, and Virginia. Representatives from Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville told the news outlet that they had a patient arrive at the hospital "in with full respiratory collapse and essentially had to be on life support." Monroe Carell has treated four cases of vaping-related respiratory illness over the past six months. Patients have presented with a variety of symptoms, including severe pneumonia and coughing up blood. At the time of this writing, no deaths have been linked to the lung disease. However, some patients have developed severe, progressive lung disease, and have required ongoing mechanical breathing assistance.
Beyond the fact that they used some type of vaping device, a more exact cause has not been discovered. The CDC is working with states and the FDA in an attempt to pinpoint a particular device, liquid, incident, or purchase method which might link all of the cases. So far, nothing has been uncovered. Some of the patients reported purchasing their device off the street.
Another factor presenting an obstacle to the investigation is the fact that hospitals have no standard method to tracking cases, because there is no specific diagnostic code for either vaping or the emerging disease. The FDA is encouraging the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected tobacco- or e-cigarette-related health or product issues to the agency via the online Safety Reporting Portal.