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Lung illness continues to sicken many; stay away from vaping products until we know cause of health crisis
November 13, 2019

For the last several months, health officials across the nation have been trying to find out why thousands of generally healthy people began to suffer serious lung injuries that required hospitalization.

The illness has been found in 49 states and there have been about 2,000 cases reported nationally – nine in Riverside County – of vaping-associated pulmonary illness. In 39 cases, the patient died from the illness. The only connection was that the patients reported using some kind of vaping products before they became ill.

In September, I recommended that residents stop the use of vaping products until health officials determined the cause of the illness. I also recommended that those using vaping to quit smoking should consult their medical provider.

While investigators are narrowing down the potential culprit and the rate of growth of the illness has slowed, health officials do not know positively what is causing the health crisis. Investigators say vitamin E acetate and THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – was found many of the samples taken from a group of patients. Nicotine was also found in many cases. In one group of patients, investigators were told the patients obtained the THC-containing vape or e-cigarette through informal sources, such as a dealer, friend of off the street; they also reported using the product more than five times a day.

According to the CDC, “these findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate within the lungs at the primary site of injury. This is the first time we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients.”

While this is a sign we might be narrowing in on a specific cause, the jury is still officially out, and I still recommend that residents refrain from using vaping products. The CDC is continuing to make the same recommendation.

Much has been learned but there is more information that must be collected and analyzed, and a little peace of mind is worth putting aside e-cigarettes and vaping until we can be more confident of what’s causing so many people to suffer, and in some cases, die.

For the latest updated information and recommendations, click www.cdc.gov/lunginjury