At least 15 states have identified more than 120 cases of lung diseases or injuries that could be related to vaping, according to state health departments.
The states with most cases include Wisconsin, with 15 confirmed cases and 15 more under investigation. Illinois has 10 confirmed cases, while 12 more are under investigation. California is investigating 19 of those cases. The New York State Department of Health said Friday that it was “actively investigating” 11 cases. Indiana and New Jersey reported nine cases, of which Indiana has confirmed six.
Health officials from Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah also said they were aware of confirmed or potential cases. A total of 42 states and Washington provided CNN with an answer.
“These latest reports of lung disease in people who use vaping products in New York and other states are proof that more studies are needed on the long-term health effects of these products,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of New York state health, in a statement Friday.
Health officials in several states said it is still unclear whether there is a connection between the cases or if the vaping definitely caused these diseases, which led to several people being hospitalized.
In an email on Friday , the Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention US (CDC) urged doctors to collect information and samples (or substances) than similar patients might have been vapeando. The agency said it was working with some of these states to share information and facilitate testing.
“There are still many unanswered questions, but the health damage that arises from the current epidemic of youth vaping in Minnesota continues to increase,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, medical director and state epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, in a statement on Tuesday. “We encourage providers and parents to be attentive to vaping as a cause of unexplained respiratory problems and lung injuries and diseases.”
A difficult condition to track
The Minnesota Department of Health reported this week that some patients who were hospitalized for “several weeks”, in some cases ended up in the intensive care unit. They arrived with symptoms that include shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and chest pain.
Dr. Emily Chapman, medical director of Children’s Minnesota, who reported four cases, said in a statement that these diseases are difficult to diagnose because they can start looking like a common infection before causing more serious complications.
They are also difficult to track, experts say, because vaping-related lung disease is not a mandatory condition for reporting. Some health departments said they do not track this data.
Still, the states are posting notices with the hope that doctors will notice the clues and ask the right questions. In Colorado, Georgia and Kansas, health officials have tried to search for cases by analyzing data from emergency departments.
“There is no diagnostic code … for lung diseases related to vaping. Therefore, it will be difficult to track and track, ”said Dr. Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Choi said he has seen three cases in recent months, and suspects there were others who did not think of vaping as a potential cause.
“People had the impression that vaping was safe,” Choi said. “They do not connect new symptoms with vaping.”
The state of Choi Ohio, however, is not one of the states where health departments are currently reporting cases, according to the state health department.
“It’s hard to know what to expect in these cases because it’s something new,” Choi said.
There is no clear culprit
Thomas Haupt, a respiratory disease epidemiologist at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, told CNN earlier this month that the cases in his state were young people who “were normally healthy and were in serious respiratory illnesses, and in some cases, they actually had to go to the intensive care unit and were placed in respirators. ”
The lung disease initially seemed to be caused by an infection, “but each test has been completely negative,” he added.
Wisconsin cases were mostly in the southeastern part of the state, Haupt said. This borders the northeastern part of Illinois, where initial patients from that state were hospitalized.
While authorities are still trying to determine what products the patients used, some states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York, said the use of nicotine and marijuana products had been reported.
In Wisconsin, “all patients reported vaping before hospitalization, but we don’t know all the products they used at this time,” said Andrea Palm, the designated secretary of the state Department of Health Services, in a statement last week. “The products used could include a number of substances, such as nicotine, THC, synthetic cannabinoids or a combination of these.
Health experts have pointed out a variety of substances in electronic liquids that fear they may damage cells or contain “dangerous chemicals,” but the full extent of the short and long-term risks of electronic cigarettes is still unclear. Several counterfeit and adulterated products have also reached the market, which may have other additives or ingredients. It is not clear if that plays a role in these cases.
Yolonda Kerr is a general assignment reporter at The Grand Newsstand. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in her journalism career, and has lived in San Francisco for more than 8 years. Yolonda has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) NPR, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com.