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Cases Of Lung Injury Linked To Vaping Continue To Rise In Connecticut And Around The Nation

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The number of people becoming ill with lung injuries possibly linked to vaping continues to climb as states like Connecticut report more hospitalizations.

Two more cases of serious lung illness have been reported in the state, bringing the total to 13 people. That’s according to the Department of Public Health. That news follows an increase in cases nationwide.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a telebriefing that there are now about 530 confirmed and possible cases in 38 states and one U.S. territory. Seven people have died.

Experts are investigating vaping products and substances for a cause, but they have yet to identify a single common element in all reported cases. 

Schuchat said getting information from patients has been challenging, because “patients may have been exposed to a variety of products and substances, may not know the contents or sources of these products, and in some instances, may be reluctant or too ill to fully disclose all the details of interest.”

Connecticut patients are from Fairfield, New Haven, New London, Tolland, and Windham counties. Twelve out of the 13 people have been discharged from hospitals.

Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Some people are also experiencing nausea, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and abdominal pain.

DPH officials interviewed nine of the state’s patients — all of them reported using vaping products containing THC, a psychoactive component of marijuana. The products were either bought or given from another person, or at a dispensary.

Three of those patients said they also used e-cigarettes with nicotine substances, according to DPH. Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell said in the statement that Connecticut residents should consider not using e-cigarette or vaping products during local and national investigations into what is causing the illnesses.

“If you chose to continue vaping, you should avoid buying vaping products off the street or from another person, including a friend,” she said.

Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said the agency has collected more than 150 samples of vaping products, substances and ingredients from patients across the United States for testing, but “identifying any compounds present in the samples is but one piece of the puzzle and will not necessarily answer questions of causality.”

Laboratory scientists are testing the samples for chemicals like nicotine, THC, opioids, cutting agents, pesticides, poisons and toxins. Zeller said they have yet to find a single element common in all cases.

The law enforcement arm of the FDA is conducting parallel investigations to track down where the products and substances are coming from, Zeller said.

“What you’re hearing from CDC, from FDA, and the states is, we are in desperate need of facts and answers to questions,” he said.

In the meantime, Connecticut and national experts said anyone who has vaped and is feeling ill should seek medical care immediately.

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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