Officials are not sure if the illnesses are linked to the e-cigarette devices. (Representational)
State and federal health officials are investigating nearly 100 cases of mysterious lung disease associated with vaping and e-cigarette use in 14 states, many of which involve teens and young adults. A large number of the affected patients have been hospitalized, with some in intensive care and on ventilators.
At least 31 cases have been confirmed as of Friday, state officials said, and dozens of more are under investigation. Medical authorities say it is unclear whether patients will recover fully.
Officials are warning clinicians and the public to be aware of what they describe as a serious and potentially dangerous lung injury. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or chest pain before hospitalization. Health officials said patients have also reported fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that officials are working with health departments in at least five states with confirmed cases – California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin – to determine the cause of the condition following "a cluster of lung diseases associated with e-use. cigarettes ”were reported among adolescents and young adults in recent weeks. In a call Friday with state health authorities, CDC officials said they were testing 94 possible cases in 14 states.
So far, there is no consistent evidence that an infectious disease is the culprit, CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said. While some of the cases appear similar, officials said they do not know if the diseases are associated with the e-cigarette equipment itself, or with specific ingredients or pollutants inhaled through them. Health officials have said patients have described the vaping of a variety of drugs, including nicotine, marijuana-based products and do-it-yourself "home brewing."
CDC officials say below the growing level of concern, they are notifying health care systems and clinicians across the country about illnesses and what to look for. State health departments have also issued warnings.
E-cigarettes have grown in popularity over the last decade despite scant studies of their long-term effects. In recent years, health authorities have warned of an epidemic of vaping underage teens. The leading brand, Juul, said it monitors disease reports and has "robust security monitoring systems in place."
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a group that advocates for vaping products, said that about 10 million adult vampin nicotine every month without major problems each month. "It seems that the products that cause lung damage are much more likely to be amateur manufactured street vapors containing THC or illegal drugs, not nicotine," he argued.
But the health authorities are not at all sure that this is correct.
"We haven't had that kind of history of vaping to be able to reassure anyone – teens included – that this is a safe practice," said Emily Chapman, chief medical officer of Children's Minnesota, a health care system headquartered in Minneapolis, which has cared for four teens with the disease, ages 16 to 18.
Over the past month, teens presented symptoms that seemed manageable and consistent with a viral infection – shortness of breath, cough, fever, and abdominal discomfort, Chapman said. But teens continued to worsen despite treatment, including antibiotics and oxygen support. Some of the teens had respiratory failure, which required the use of fans, she said.
Chapman said doctors eventually made the connection to vaping-associated acute lung injury. When patients were treated with steroids, among other treatments, they showed improvement. Clinicians do not know if patients will have long-term consequences, she said.
"These cases are extremely complex to diagnose, as symptoms can mimic a common infection but can still lead to serious complications and extended hospitalization," Chapman said. "Medical care is important. Respiratory conditions can continue to decline without proper treatment."
E-cigarettes are a diverse group of products that contain a heating element that produces an aerosol from a liquid that users can inhale via a mouthpiece. Millions of Americans use e-cigarettes, with the largest use among young adults. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, according to the CDC.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in January found that although e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes that produce a variety of toxic substances when burned, they still pose health risks. Among non-smoking adolescents and young adults, the report said "their side effects clearly warrant concern," among them "moderate evidence of increased cough and wheezing" and increased prevalence of asthma.
But many medical authorities believe there is insufficient data to know their full effects, especially on young people.
Dylan Nelson of Burlington, Wisconsin, who has asthma and has been vaping for about a year, was hospitalized with pneumonia last month after he began having respiratory distress. The 26-year-old described the feeling of breathing through a straw. He said he was coughing, his heart racing, and his breathing was hard and fast.
Nelson said he spent days in the hospital, some of that time linked to a respirator. His mother, Kim Barnes, said that when a nurse told her it might be related to vaping, it was a wake-up call for her.
Now she wants to convey this sense of urgency to other parents: "You have to put your kids down and tell them the dangers of this thing. If you're an adult, get dressed up – this is not good. Look into it before you decide to pick up these things and start using this. "
Wisconsinhad 15 confirmed cases from Thursday, including the Nelsons, and another 15 under investigation, all of which were hospitalized, the health department said. The first cases were among teens and young adults, but newer ones include patients of older age groups, officials said. All patients reported vaping for weeks and months prior to hospitalization, but officials said they did not know the names and types of products used.
Minnesota's health department, meanwhile, called on providers to be vigilant "for vaping as the cause of unexplained breathing problems and lung injury and illness." It asks clinicians to look for similar cases and report them.
"There are still many unanswered questions," said Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota epidemiologist and health department medical director. "But the health damage that occurs as a result of the current youth vaping epidemic in Minnesota continues to rise."
Doctors had seen "scattered cases" of lung disease tied to vaping before, but they had not identified a pattern until now, Chapman of Children & # 39; s Minnesota said.
"I think it's important to understand that vaping is supposed to be safe, and yet we know so little about it," she said.
(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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