A VAPING-related illness has killed 29 people with cases of the mysterious disease surging to 1,300.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported more than 200 extra cases in just a week as the epidemic in the US deepens.
Health officials confirmed that two more people had died in Indiana taking the state’s death toll to three.
Meanwhile, Texas has reported its first victim after an “older woman” died from a lung disease associated with using electronic cigarettes.
It comes after Utah confirmed a patient, under the age of 30, died at home in what’s believed to be the first case where a person didn’t go to hospital first.
The state’s health department said they had vaped THC – the psychoactive chemical in cannabis – prior to their death.
Dr Angela Dunn, UDOH state epidemiologist, said: “This death is a sad reminder of the severity of these unexplained illnesses.
“Based on what we know about this outbreak and what may be contributing to it, our best advice to the public is to stop vaping products that contain THC.”
Massachusetts also reported its first vaping-related fatality this week – a woman in her 60s – but wouldn’t reveal any further details.
While extra victims were reported in both California and Georgia, taking the death tolls in each state to three and two respectively.
It comes after a teenager become the youngest person to die of a vaping-related disease in New York, officials reported this week.
Health bosses said the 17-year-old boy died at Montefiore Medical Center children’s hospital in the Bronx, New York, on Friday.
He was admitted to hospital with a respiratory illness late last month and had previously been seen by medics in early September, the New York Post reported.
Officials believe the teen had been vaping cartridges containing THC – the key ingredient that causes the high in cannabis.
Confirming the latest death, New York state governor Andrew Cuomo said: “Parents have to know, young people have to know.
“You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff.”
City health officials declined to provide any additional details, but spokeswoman Avery Cohen said: “We’re alarmed by the uptick of vaping-related illnesses and will continue to fight for reforms that keep dangerous e-cigarette products out of the hands of our children.”
You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff
It brings the overall number of deaths linked to e-cigarettes to 29 across the United States.
There has been a single reported fatality in Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Florida.
Two deaths were reported each Oregon, Georgia and Kansas, and three in California.
The CDC publishes its weekly report confirming the number of deaths and confirmed or probable cases of the disease on a Thursday.
Last night, the agency said that 26 people had died and 1,299 people had fallen sick.
Its figures were counted up until October 8, so didn’t include the most recent deaths reported in Utah and Indiana.
More than a third of patients are under age 21, but the deaths have been older adults who apparently had more difficulty recovering, it said.
Meanwhile, the first Brit reported to have died from the vaping-related lung illness was named as Terry Miller, 57, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.
Following the deaths of two people in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Food and Drug Administration was prompted to issue a warning to stop using THC vaping products immediately.
FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said: “We’re strengthening our message to the public in an updated consumer alert stating that they should not use vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.
“Additionally, consumers who choose to use any vaping products should not modify or add any substances such as THC or other oils to products purchased in stores and should not purchase any vaping products, including those containing THC, off the street or from other illicit channels.
He added: “According to recent findings, most of the patients impacted by these illnesses reported using THC-containing products, suggesting THC products are playing a role in the these illnesses.”
It is pretty much impossible for you to know what is in the e-cigarette or vaping product that you’re getting
Dr Anne Schuchat
The CDC has echoed the warning, urging people not to vape until a cause for the outbreak is identified.
Dr Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said: “We’re worried that there are plenty of risky products still out there.
“That’s one of the reasons we’ve intensified our warnings.”
Advising people to steer clear of vaping products, she added: “It is pretty much impossible for you to know what is in the e-cigarette or vaping product that you’re getting, particularly THC-containing products bought off the street or bought from social sources.”
Worryingly, she also admitted that the crisis had shown no sign of slowing.
“The data we are getting does not suggest this has peaked,” she said.
Complicating the investigation are apparently conflicting medical reports about whats been seen in the lungs of different patients.
Some doctors suggested patients lungs are being clogged and inflamed by oils from vaping liquids, but a new report pointed to the kind of chemical burns that might come from poisonous gases.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine yesterday, revealed the lung injuries were most likely caused by direct toxicity or tissue damage from noxious chemical fumes – similar to those seen in industrial accidents.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have manged to review lung biopsies from e-cigarette users who were suspected to have the vaping lung injury.
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
Experts likened the injuries to when someone is exposed to a toxic chemical spill, or when soldiers breathed in deadly mustard gas during WW1, reports the Star Tribune.
The illness was first reported in April and all patients are known to have used e-cigarettes — some containing the cannabinoid THC.
New York was due to ban flavoured e-cigarettes but it’s been put on hold after a court ruling at the 11th hour, it’s been reported.
A report from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK says 200 health problems are linked with e-cigarette use.
The health watchdog has recorded 74 reports of health problems suspected to have been caused by e-cigarettes since 2014.
MORE ON VAPING
Of them, 49 were classified as “serious”.
Experts are now calling on a national system to record every problem associated with e-cigarettes, according to the Sunday Times.
But the MHRA insisted all health problems are reviewed, adding that they are not concrete proof of the side effects of vaping.
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