A VAPING lung disease which is sweeping the United States has claimed its youngest victim – at just 13.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last night confirmed that 33 people have now died from the illness, dubbed EVALI.
Cases of those who have developed the disease has soared to 1,500 – with every state bar Alaska reporting illnesses.
Nearly 80 per cent of patients have been in their teens or 20s and most of them male, according to the CDC.
Both Montana and Tennessee reported its first fatalities in the outbreak, believed to have started in March.
Officials haven’t named any of the victims of the epidemic so far and it’s unclear where the 13-year-old was from.
Yet investigators still don’t know what causes EVALI, which stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.”
Dr Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said this week: “This is extremely complicated and difficult. It’s fatal or potentially fatal with half of the cases requiring intensive care.”
US health officials said last week there may be more than one cause behind the disease, which causes severe shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.
Investigators have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, as being especially risky, but have not yet tied the cases to any specific product or compound.
Dr Schuchat previously said: “I think there will be multiple causes and potentially more than one root cause.”
She added that the source of the illness in one part of the country may not be the same as in another part.
Doctors have been issued updated guidance, urging them to be especially watchful of patients who may have both a vaping lung injury and an unrelated respiratory infection.
The CDC had previously advised doctors to rule out infections before considering vaping injuries, but that was during the summer months, when there are fewer cases of respiratory infections such as flu.
They are now telling doctors to devise treatments that would address both conditions.
Dr Schuchat said a handful of vaping patients who recovered and were discharged were later readmitted to the hospital, but it was not clear whether these individuals resumed vaping and incurred a new injury.
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
The new guidelines urge doctors to follow up with patients a week after discharge, and to begin vaping cessation treatments or therapies for THC and nicotine before patients leave the hospital.
Dr Ned Sharpless, acting commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the agency has begun testing on more than 700 product samples and product parts gathered from patients and health officials.
FDA scientists are testing for a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC and other marijuana components, metals, cutting agents and other additives, pesticides and toxins.
Dr Sharpless said: “Based on our testing of samples to date, there does not appear to be one product or substance involved in all of the cases. It may be there is more than one cause to this outbreak.
“We do know that THC is present in most of the samples tested to date.”
Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency has evaluated 225 THC-containing products and found Vitamin E acetate – a cutting agent – in nearly half of them.
Dr Sharpless said the FDA is collaborating with customs and border control agents to intercept any products containing illicit substances.
“If we determine that someone is manufacturing or distributing illicit, adulterated vaping products that cause illness or death for personal profit, we would consider that to be a criminal act,” he said.
The CDC and the FDA continue to urge people to stop vaping, especially products containing THC.
State’s that have so far reported vaping-related deaths
Alabama – 3
Connecticut – 1
Delaware – 1
Florida – 1
Georgia – 2
Illinois – 1
Indiana – 3
Kansas – 3
Massachusetts – 1
Michigan – 1
Missouri – 1
Montana – 1
Nebraska – 1
New Jersey – 1
New York – 1
Oregon – 2
Pennsylvania – 1
Tennessee – 1
Texas – 1
Utah – 1
Virginia – 1