Feds Still Urge Caution About Vaping as Lung Injury Cases Top 1000

Megan Brooks

October 03, 2019

Federal health officials today continued to warn against vaping — especially with products containing THC — and said that, as of October 1, the number of confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarettes and vaping products has climbed to 1080 in 48 states and the US Virgin Islands. There have been 18 deaths. 

The number of cases continues to rise at a "brisk pace," Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a media briefing.

"The increase of 275 cases since last week is a combination of new patients becoming ill in the past 2 weeks and recent reporting of previously-identified patients," she noted.

This is a "very concerning outbreak" with no sign of letting up, said Schuchat.

About 70% of patients are male, about 80% of the patients are younger than age 35 years, and 16% are younger than age 18. The median age of patients is 23 years, ranging from age 13 to 75 years.

The 18 confirmed deaths have occurred in 15 states and additional deaths are under investigation, said Schuchat. The median age of patients who have died is 50 years (range, 27 to 71 years).

Refrain From Vaping

All reported patients have a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products. However, no consistent e-cigarette or vaping product, substance, additive, or brand has been identified in all cases, Schuchat said. Nor has any one product or substance been conclusively linked to lung injury.

Judy McMeekin, PharmD, deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the agency is leaving "no stone unturned" in its investigation of what exactly is behind the vaping-associated lung injury. 

The FDA is now testing 440 vaping product samples from patients in 18 states who became sick after vaping — and that number continues to increase.

Among 578 patients with information on substances used in e-cigarette or vaping products in the 90 days prior to symptom onset, about 78% reported using THC-containing products, with or without nicotine-containing products; 37% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products; and 17% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products. These percentages are consistent with previous reports, Schuchat said.

The CDC continues to recommend that all people should refrain from using e-cigarettes, especially those with THC.

"The increasing number of lung injury cases we see associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is deeply concerning," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the escalating health threat this outbreak poses to the American public, particularly youth and young adults. CDC will continue to work with FDA and state health partners to investigate the cause, or causes, of this outbreak and to bring an end to these lung injuries," said Redfield.

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