A lung condition apparently caused by vaping has been reported in every state but Alaska, the CDC has announced. The total number of suspected and confirmed cases has risen to 1,479, and at least 33 people have died as a result of the affliction.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) updates these numbers regularly and provides news on its progress in characterizing the condition, in which the only reliable shared factor is using vaping devices. More victims report using THC products than nicotine, but no specific chemical or mechanism has been proposed as the cause.
At the outset it appeared that the problem might have been rooted in a bad batch of unofficial vape cartridges tinged with some toxic chemical — and indeed the CDC has warned against buying vaping materials from any untrustworthy sources. But the scale of the problem has continuously grown and is now clearly nationwide, not local.
The demographics skew male (70% of victims) and younger (79% are under 35, with a median of 23, though for deaths the median is 44). And 78% reported using THC products, while only 10% reported only using nicotine.
Reported victims are concentrated in Illinois and California, in both of which over a hundred cases have been reported, but that should not be taken as an indicator that states with fewer cases, like Kentucky and Oregon, are immune — they may simply be late to report. Likewise for U.S. territories, where only the Virgin Islands have reported cases — Puerto Rico and others are likely to be equally at risk.
If you use a vaping device and are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain (though other symptoms are also associated), you should probably check with your doctor. In the meantime, the CDC has recommended ceasing all use of vaping products, though as many have pointed out, that may end up pushing some users back to cigarettes. Angry about that? Direct it at the vaping companies, which promoted their products as smoking cessation tools without adequate testing.
The CDC and FDA, along with state and municipal health authorities and partners, are working on determining the cause and any potential treatments of the “lung injury associated with e-cigarette use,” as they call it. Tests and sampling efforts are underway — efforts that probably should have been done before these products were allowed on the market.
You can keep up with the latest stats at the CDC’s dedicated page.
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