Oregon health officials are investigating the death of an individual who suffered from a respiratory illness after using a vaping device.
It comes after the State of Illinois launched an investigation last week into the death of an individual who had used an e-cigarette product and was later hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness. Oregon Health Authority (OHA) investigators say the individual, who died in July, reportedly used a vaping device containing cannabis purchased from a cannabis dispensary. No other details were released, other than that the symptoms present in the Oregonian’s case were consistent with the more than 200 similar cases of a mysterious lung disease affecting mainly teenagers and young adults across at least 25 states.
"We don’t yet know the exact cause of these illnesses — whether they’re caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself," said Dr Ann Thomas, public health physician at OHA’s Public Health Division, in an official statement. Before the incident, OHA was actively engaged in warning the public of the health risks of vaping products in a recent report detailing the health risks for products including nicotine addiction, exposure to toxic chemicals, and increases in blood pressure.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have launched a joint investigation to determine the cause of the ailment, which is characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest pain, coughing, and weight loss. Both agencies are working with state and local authorities to determine the names and types of products and devices used, as well as where they were purchased. Though no specific product has yet been identified, many patients reportedly using products that contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations, which is why our ongoing investigation is critical,” noted the CDC at the time. Federal agencies have deployed representatives at several hospitals in order to develop a standardized case definition that can be used by medical staff to help collect and report information on related cases.
Experts advise that e-cigarette users should monitor themselves for symptoms and “promptly seek medical attention” if one has concerns about their health. Additionally, those who vape are reminded to never buy such products off the street, which are not regulated, and to avoid modifying e-cigarette products or adding substances not intended by the manufacturer.