September 9, Wisconsin Health News
Wisconsin and Illinois health officials published a report with other researchers Friday detailing a series of vaping-related hospitalizations as the number of cases continues to grow.
There have now been five reported vaping-related deaths in California, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and Minnesota. As of Friday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified more than 450 possible cases of the disease in 33 states and one territory.
In Wisconsin, there were 34 cases, with 12 cases needing further investigation as of last Thursday. Fifteen counties had cases.
The CDC believes that a chemical exposure is likely associated with the illnesses. Some laboratories have identified vitamin E acetate, a common vitamin often used in skin creams, in product samples, according to Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, incident manager of the CDC 2019 Lung Injury Response.
“However, and I really want to stress this, more information is needed to determine which specific products or substances are involved,” Delman told reporters on a Friday conference call. “At this time, no one device, product or substance has been linked to all cases, and continued investigation is needed.”
The report from Wisconsin, Illinois and other researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses 53 case patients that were studied by the states’ health departments since July.
About 83 percent were male, with the median age being 19 years.
Almost all the patients presented at the hospital with respiratory symptoms, the most common being shortness of breath. Patients also often had a fever, fatigue and weight loss as well as gastrointestinal symptoms.
A total of 94 percent were hospitalized, with 32 percent needing ventilators to breathe. Around 84 percent of patients reported vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Dr. Jonathan Meiman, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said both states have developed a working case definition to identify patients with the disease, which they’ve also refined over time with other states’ epidemiologists and the CDC.
The Illinois Department of Public Health conducted a review of emergency department cases over the last year and a half, finding that the monthly rate of visits related to severe respiratory disease in June through August was twice the rate observed in the same months in 2018.
Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist at the department, said the findings are preliminary and they can’t say for sure if it’s a new or newly recognized phenomenon. But the analysis suggests it’s new, she added.
“These are not just cases and data points, but these individuals are individuals who are suffering from severe, serious illness,” Layden said. “We want to do what we can – everything we can – to assist a larger investigation and prevent additional illnesses.”