Health

Public Health Officials Still Don’t Know What’s Making Vaping Device Users Sick

The Georgia Department of Public Health says no deaths have been linked to the vaping illness in the state.
The Georgia Department of Public Health says no deaths have been linked to the vaping illness in the state.
Credit Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press, File
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Public health officials are still stumped by what’s behind an outbreak of severe lung illness among people who report use vaping devices.

As of this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s received 530 reports of confirmed and possible cases from 38 states and 1 territory. Among those cases are seven confirmed deaths.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says no deaths have been linked to the vaping illness in the state.

Still, the number of cases is on the rise. The agency has confirmed five cases that meet the CDC’s case definition, and it’s reviewing 10 other possible cases.

And investigators don’t have a clear picture of what’s behind the outbreak.

“No consistent e-cig or vaping product, substance, additive or brand has been identified in all cases, nor has any one product or substance been conclusively linked to lung injury in patients,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat with the CDC.

The agency says many cases involve people who reported using vaping products containing THC, a psychoactive component of marijuana. However, it says other cases involve individuals who report only using nicotine products.

The CDC also says the cases tend to be most common among young males. Three-quarters of the cases have been reported in men, with more than half of them among people under the age of 25.

In Georgia, public health officials say a majority of the confirmed cases have been in people aged 18-25.

Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the agency has collected some 150 samples of e-cigarette and vaping devices for testing. It’s still looking for a common link among the cases.

“We’re keenly focused on better understanding whether there is a relationship between any specific products and substances and the reported illnesses,” said Mitch Zeller with the FDA.”

There does not currently appear to be one product or substance involved in all the cases.”

Zeller says the agency has activated its law enforcement arm, the Office of Criminal Investigations, to help identify what is making people sick. He stressed the office is not looking to prosecute individuals for using any controlled substances.

The CDC has also activated its Emergency Operations Center to provide additional support to other agencies investigating the outbreak.