Vaping or using e-cigarettes has gained immense population over the past few years. It's widely regarded as a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking. Now, health officials warn against vaping as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a cluster of lung diseases associated with e-cigarette use was reported in 14 states.
The CDC has notified US healthcare systems and clinicians about the lung diseases and what to watch out for. It also provided consultation to the Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and California departments of health about the lung diseases linked to vaping, especially among teens and young adults.
Other states have contacted CDC for possible cases in their areas, and investigations are kickstarted to determine if the new cases are also linked to vaping use. However, CDC says there is still no conclusive evidence that an infectious agent is responsible for the disease.
The diseases reported from the different states had similarities and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use. However, more research is crucial to determine the exact cause of the lung disease.
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Nearly 100 cases reported from 14 states
As of August 15, 2019, there were 94 reported possible cases of severe lung diseases linked to vaping across 14 states since June 28. The reported cases include 30 from Wisconsin, with 15 confirmed cases and 15 more under investigation.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) states that the investigation included cases of severe lung disease among people who reported recent vaping or dabbing (vaping extracts, concentrates, or marijuana oils).
The first cases reported from among adolescents and young adults, but they now have cases in older age groups.
Illinois has reported ten confirmed cases and 12 more under investigation. California also reported 19 cases while the New York State Department of Health is now investigating 11 possible cases. New Jersey has reported nine cases, while Indiana reported six cases.
“We know the children have been injured. We don’t yet know the causative agent,” Dr. David D. Gummin, medical director of the Wisconsin Poison Center, and professor and chief of medical toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
“We have no leads pointing to a specific substance other than those that are associated with smoking or vaping,” he added.
Signs and symptoms of the mysterious lung disease
The patients with severe lung disease reported signs and symptoms of fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty of breathing, and unexplained weight loss.
Health officials said some patients reported vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
The patients reported using e-cigarettes or vaping in the weeks and months before they were hospitalized. Though the doctors are not sure what exact products the patients used, the products could include many substances, including synthetic cannabinoids, nicotine, THC, and a combination of these.
The growing popularity of e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes or vapes have grown in popularity over the past decade, even though there is little research on possible long-term effects. The CDC warns children and young people in using e-cigarettes. The use of these devices is not safe for children, adolescents, and young adults.
E-cigarettes or vapes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. This substance can harm brain development in teens, which can go in into early to their mid-20s. Moreover, e-cigarettes contain other chemicals that can harm health.
"We haven't had that kind of history with vaping to be able to assure anyone - teens included - that this is a safe practice," Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children's Minnesota, who looked after four teens with the illness, said.
"These cases are extremely complex to diagnose, as symptoms can mimic a common infection yet can lead to severe complications and extended hospitalization. Medical attention is essential. Respiratory conditions can continue to decline without proper treatment,” she added.
The CDC estimates that in 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students in the US said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month.