Virginia sees first vaping-related death as national toll rises to 16

A woman exhales a puff of vapor from a Juul pen in Vancouver Wash

Public health officials are still at a loss to explain the cause of the severe lung illnesses, which have now reached 1,080 cases across 48 states and one USA territory so far, up from 805 cases last week.

Investigators have not linked the illnesses to any specific product or compound, but have pointed to vaping oils containing marijuana ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Some US states, most recently MA, have moved to ban vaping altogether until its health effects are better understood.

Of those found to have the lung injury, which can cause severe shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain, 70% were male and 80% were under 35-years-old.

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, described a possible link between the current outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries and the use of THC-containing vaping products.

Officials say the lung problems do not appear to be caused by an infection but are likely the result of vaping itself or of inhaling a chemical while vaping. The average age of those who died is almost 50, with the youngest person who died in their 20s and the oldest in their 70s. Cases have been reported in 48 states and the US Virgin Islands.

Federal and state health officials still haven't identified the single common element between all of these vaping cases, making the ultimate cause unknown.

When health officials from Wisconsin and IL interviewed 86 people in their states who had become ill, nearly everyone said he or she had acquired their THC cartridges illegally - either from friends, family members or drug dealers. "Dank Vapes was the only e-cigarette product reported by one of the patients", according to the report from the two states.

CDC principal deputy director, Dr Anne Schuchat, said cases were "continuing at a brisk pace", but cautioned that the increase from last week was a combination of new patients and recent reporting of previously identified patients. There is little data on what happens to certain chemicals when they are aerosolized, as they are in an e-cigarette device, she said.

"I can not stress enough the seriousness of these injuries".

Most of the recommendations, including banning the sales of flavored e-cigarettes, will require legislation, he said.

"But I try to get them to set a quit date with the e-cigarettes as well", she said. As the investigation continues, they said those percentages might change.

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