A mysterious ailment sickening people who utilize e-cigarettes has reached Stanislaus County, with two cases reported to the local health department.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency were notified of two local cases of a lung ailment associated with vaping cannabis or cannabis oils. Both the individuals were hospitalized and both had recently vaped cannabis. The HSA did not release any information about the individuals’ ages or hometowns.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food & Drug Administration are investigating 215 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use reported by 25 states, including California, from June 28 to Aug. 27. Additional reports of pulmonary illness are under investigation, including 44 cases in California, according to the California Department of Public Health. One death has been confirmed in Illinois.
“We were deeply saddened last week to learn of the death of an adult in Illinois who had been hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness following the use of an e-cigarette product,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield and Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless in a released statement. “We are working closely with state and local health officials to investigate these incidents as quickly as possible, and we are committed to taking appropriate actions as a clearer picture of the facts emerges.”
E-cigarettes and vape pens are battery operated devices that heat liquid and turn it into a steam that is drawn into the lungs. The liquid can contain nicotine, chemical flavorings, cannabis or other drugs. The liquids used in e-cigarettes are largely unregulated and can contain toxic chemicals.
The exact cause of the illnesses is not yet known. Most patients nationwide report vaping the cannabis compounds THC and/or cannabidiol (CBD) and some also report vaping nicotine products. The CDC and the FDA are working to determine if there’s a relationship between any specific products or substances and the reported illnesses. At this time, the specific substances within the e-cigarette products that cause illness are not known and could involve a variety of substances.
A number of those who have been sickened with the lung ailment reported purchasing the products from unlicensed cannabis retailers, such as street vendors or pop-up shops.
In many cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms, including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea or other symptoms such as fevers or fatigue, according to the CDC.
Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan recommends that clinicians report similar cases to Stanislaus County Public Health and collect associated vaping products for testing.
The HAS also recommends e-cigarette users take the following actions:
• While this investigation is ongoing, if you are concerned about these specific health risks, consider refraining from using e-cigarette products.
• Regardless of the ongoing investigation, anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC, other cannabinoids) and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
• E-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products. If you use e-cigarette products, monitor yourself for symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health.
• Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications. If you need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact your doctor.
• The public is encouraged to submit detailed reports of any unexpected tobacco or e-cigarette- related health or product issues to the FDA via the online Safety Reporting