The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now investigating a severe lung disease potentially linked to e-cigarettes and vaping.
So far, at least 94 cases of severe pulmonary disease have been reported in 14 states since June 28th. Wisconsin has seen the most reports, with 15 confirmed cases and 15 suspected. The mysterious ailment has also been confirmed in Illinois, California, Indiana, and Minnesota, while suspected cases are under investigation elsewhere.
Most of the victims are adolescents and young adults who reported using nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and/or vaping marijuana products prior to becoming ill. So far, the CDC has been unable to identify any infectious disease that could be responsible for the illness.
“While some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses,” the agency said in a statement issued over the weekend.
According to the CDC, all patients suffered severe respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue that worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Other reported symptoms included fever, chest pain, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea.
Subsequent chest radiographs and CT scans showed evidence of acute lung injury. Some victims were placed on a ventilator, but fortunately improved with administration of corticosteroids.
While they’re frequently marketed as a smoking-cessation aid, John Hopkins Medicine notes that “nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.”
E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular with young people in recent years. In fact, vaping among high schoolers increased by 78% between 2017 and 2018, and rose by 48% among middle schoolers.
“The rise in e-cigarette use during 2017–2018 is likely because of the recent popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like a USB flash drive, such as JUUL,” the CDC said. “These products can be used discreetly, have a high nicotine content, and come in flavors that appeal to youths.”