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Patient's death could be first linked to vaping in US, health officials say

Officials are trying to find the cause of a respiratory illness in up to 200 more people.

A US PATIENT has died after developing severe lung disease linked to the use of e-cigarettes, officials in the state of Illinois said yesterday.

Health officials are now attempting to find the cause of a respiratory illness in up to 200 more people following the news.

“Yesterday we received a report of the death of an adult who had been hospitalised with severe unexplained respiratory illness after reported vaping,” Jennifer Layden, the chief medical officer in Illinois said.

She declined to provide the gender of the deceased, but said that the ages of the other patients with the illness who had been treated in the state were between 17 and 38.

As of Friday, there were 193 cases across 22 states of potential cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette use since the end of June, according to figures released by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cause of the illness has not been determined, but all those who suffered from it had recently used e-cigarettes to inhale either vaporised nicotine or cannabis, and many of the products have now been sent for lab testing.

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” said Illinois health department director Dr Ngozi Ezike.

No specific product has been identified or blamed for the illness in any of the cases.

A 2018 study compiled by the US National Academy of Sciences, requested by the US House of Congress, classified nicotine and a variety of other constituents in e-cigarettes as “potentially harmful”.

The report identified “substantial evidence” that the vapour contains traces of metals, either from the coil used to heat the liquid, or other parts of the device.

Another possible contaminant is diacetyl, which is used to add a butter flavoring but has been linked to a serious but relatively rare lung disease.

However, Ileana Arias, acting deputy director on non-infectious diseases at the CDC, added that although the cases appeared similar, it was unclear if they had a common cause or if they were different diseases with similar presentations.

- © AFP 2019

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