The number of vaping-related deaths in a U.S. outbreak rose to 33 with 1,479 reported illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Photo by lindsayfox/Pixabay
Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Thirty-three people are dead from vaping-related lung injury, and the number of confirmed and probable cases has risen to 1,479 reported in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated numbers and said they still believe the evidence points to a product of substance related to illicit THC-containing vapes.
"The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak," the CDC wrote on its web page.
National health agencies still recommend that people stop using vapes, including nicotine vapes, until the investigation is complete.
The new data show that the age range of patients is getting both younger and older, with the youngest patient reported at 13 years old and the oldest at 75. The median age of 1,358 patients for whom data was collected was 23, the CDC said. Seventy percent of the patients identified were male.
Among 849 patients questioned who reported vaping in the three months prior to treatment, 78 percent of them reported using both THC and nicotine products and 31 percent said they had used only THC-containing vape products. Ten percent of patients surveyed said they used only nicotine vapes, the CDC reported.
The states with the most deaths were California, Indiana and Minnesota, with three each. Two deaths each were reported in Georgia, Kansas and Oregon. States reporting a single death were Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
The median age of patients who died is 44 years old, ranging from 17 to 75, the agency said.
FDA investigators are expanding laboratory testing to include testing for specific chemicals in biopsy and autopsy samples. Investigators also are testing aerosol emissions from vaping product samples.
The investigators still have not publicly identified any substance or substances on which they can pin the outbreak.
Patients who were hospitalized experienced symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath or chest pains, and some also have experienced nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as fatigue, fever or weight loss, the CDC said.
Meanwhile this week, regulators in legalized marijuana states Oregon and Colorado have clamped down on flavored vapes and started investigating additives, including vitamin E acetate, which was determined to be a newly introduced cutting agent in illegal THC vaping products this spring.
The stocks of publicly traded cannabis companies have seen prices drop since the vaping scare began. Shares of Canada's Canopy Growth, the largest cannabis company on the New York Stock Exchange, have fallen by as much as 61 percent to $17.89 a share from compared to a high of $52.87. The stock was trading at $20.61 Thursday afternoon.
In Canada, where cannabis is legal nationally, seven cases of vaping related illness have been identified by health authorities.