State and federal health officials are investigating almost 100 cases of mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping and e-cigarette use in 14 states, many of them involving teens and young adults.
There is growing confusion and mounting concern, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have officially announced they’re investigating a mysterious lung disease that’s hit almost 100 people this summer. There’s currently no clear idea of what’s behind the problem, however, there is one glaringly obvious link in a significant number of the cases: they’re teenagers who use e-cigarettes or vapes.
“We’re all baffled,” Dr Melodi Pirzada, a pediatric lung specialist at NYU Winthrop Hospital who has treated two cases in New York, told the Associated Press (AP).
A large number of those stricken ill have been hospitalized, with some in intensive care and on ventilators.
Between June 28 and August 15, 2019, the CDC documented at least 94 cases of a “severe lung illness” across 14 states. Of these cases, at least 30 occurred in Wisconsin.
People suffering from the elusive ailment experience a number of symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest pain, coughing, and weight loss. Dozens of people have fallen so sick they’ve required hospitalization and a small handful have even come close to dying, doctors told AP.
Officials are warning clinicians and the public to be on alert for what they describe as a severe and potentially dangerous lung injury. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or chest pain before hospitalization.
Health officials said patients have also reported fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that officials are working with health departments in at least five states with confirmed cases – California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin – to determine the cause of the condition after “a cluster of pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette use” was reported among adolescents and young adults in recent weeks.
To date, there is no consistent evidence that an infectious disease is the culprit, CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said. While some of the cases appear similar, officials said they don’t know whether the illnesses are associated with the e-cigarette devices themselves, or with specific ingredients or contaminants inhaled through them.
Health officials have said patients have described vaping a variety of substances, including nicotine, marijuana-based products and do-it-yourself “home brews”.
Underscoring growing concern, CDC officials say they are notifying health-care systems and clinicians across the country about the illnesses and what to watch for. State health departments have also issued warnings.
E-cigarettes have grown in popularity over the past decade despite little research on their long-term effects. In recent years, health authorities have warned of an epidemic of vaping by underage teenagers.
The leading brand, Juul, said it is monitoring the reports of illnesses and has “robust safety monitoring systems in place”.
The CDC notes that there’s “no conclusive evidence” to suggest that an infectious disease is to blame for the current illness outbreak, however, it was found earlier this year that some e-cigarette liquids are contaminated with fungi and bacteria. Another study found that e-cigarette vapor can contain lead, arsenic, chromium, manganese, nickel, and a bunch of heavy metals that have been linked to a variety of severe health concerns.
The health effects of vaping, especially in the long term, are currently very hazy. However, a mounting body of scientific studies is starting to throw doubt on the idea that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to tobacco smoking. On the other hand, recent research has demonstrated that people attempting to quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes are about 95 percent more likely to report succeeding than those trying without. Whether this is a risk worth taking is yet to be definitively confirmed, however.