Eighteen people have died from illnesses associated with e-cigarette use since March, US health authorities said Thursday, while more than a thousand others have suffered probable lung injuries linked to vaping.
Officials have yet to identify the cause for the outbreak, which dates back to late March, and are pursuing multiple lines of investigation.
A report by clinicians in North Carolina last month pointed to the inhalation of fatty substances from aerosolized oils as causing acute lipoid pneumonia, but a new study by the Mayo Clinic published this week found patients’ lungs had been exposed to noxious fumes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 18 deaths in 15 states had now been positively linked to vaping, along with 1,080 cases of injury — a jump of 275 since last week.
The CDC attributed the sharp increase to a combination of new patients becoming ill in the past two weeks and recent reporting of previously identified patients.
“I think we really have the feeling right now that there may be a lot of different nasty things in e-cigarette or vaping products, and they may cause different harms in the lung,” Anne Schuchat, a senior official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a call with reporters.
Among a group of 578 patients interviewed on substances they had used, 78 percent reported using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with or without nicotine products; 37 percent reported exclusive use of THC products, and 17 percent said they had only used nicotine-containing products.
THC is the primary psychoactive substance of marijuana.
About 70 percent of patients are male, and 80 percent are under 35 years old.