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Cases of severe lung illness possibly linked to vaping continues to rise in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) confirms there are nearly two dozen confirmed and probable cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette use, following the rising nationwide trend.

The department confirmed 16 cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping and seven additional probable cases in Virginia.

Officials say those numbers are expected to rise as investigations continue.

Nationally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung illness associated with vaping. That’s 150 more than had been reported the previous week.

Vaping-related illnesses have been linked to seven deaths in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon. There have been none in Virginia.

The VDH says all the patients in Virginia have ranged in age from 18 to 38 and 74 percent of the cases involve men.

The department is recommending that Virginians “consider not using any e-cigarette products.”

“People who use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop,” VDH said in a release.

CDC officials say they have not found a definitive cause or a clear connection between vaping and lung illness.

“I wish we had more answers,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said this week.

The American Vaping Association, a nonprofit that advocates for sensible regulation of vaping products, says there is growing evidence to suggest that black market tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products are responsible for the string of severe lung illnesses being investigated by the CDC and FDA.

The VDH says people who use e-cigarette products should not buy the products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

The VDH provided this explanation on how e-cigarettes and lung illness may be related:

“E-cigarettes are devices that deliver an aerosol to the user by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver marijuana or other substances. CDC, FDA, and state partners, including Virginia, are combining information about e-cigarette exposures, results from FDA testing of product samples, and clinical testing results to identify a cause or causes of these illnesses. Many patients, but not all, reported recent use of THC-containing products and some reported using both THC- and nicotine-containing products. Some patients reported using nicotine products only. It is therefore too early to pinpoint if a single product or substance is common among all cases. VDH, CDC, and FDA encourage the public to submit detailed reports of any unexpected health or product issues related to e-cigarettes or other tobacco products to the FDA via the online portal at SafetyReporting.hhs.gov.”

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