Since July, a group of 15 cases of severe lung problems due to vaping requiring hospitalization has surfaced in the Midwest states, USA.
All patients were teens or young adults, and all reported recent vaping.
As of today, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS), in Madison, said it was studying 12 confirmed respiratory cases, and 13 more are still under investigation. So far, the affected counties are Dodge, Door, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha, and Winnebago.
Patients experienced a plethora of symptoms, the agency reports, including shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough, anorexia, nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss, with symptoms worsening over days or weeks before requiring admission to hospital.
Physicians aren’t sure what’s causing the severe symptoms but point to a combination of patient age and contents in the e-cigarette vapor as potential factors.
Louella B. Amos, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, in Milwaukee, whose team treated many of the patients, said all of the patients her team treated were teenagers and that there was a mix of females and males. “The cases have impacted practice at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and other health systems [that] had contact with these teens before they are admitted to our hospital,” she told Medscape Medical News.
“Urgent care facilities and emergency rooms have been proactively asking teens with similar symptoms detailed questions about their use of e-cigarettes, the type of e-cigarettes, the content of the e-liquids used, and cigarette smoking, among other questions regarding social history and behaviors,” she said.
Chest radiographs revealed opacities in both lungs, typically in the lower pulmonary lobes. CT scans “showed diffuse ground-glass opacities, often with subpleural sparing,” according to the WDHS statement from August 2. All patients tested negative for infections. Some worsened to the point of needing endotracheal intubation but improved after receiving systemic steroids.
E-cigarettes and vaping products face an “existential threat” in the US if their use among young people continues to rise, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned.
Scott Gottlieb spoke on Friday at a public hearing in Maryland focused on eliminating the use of “electronic cigarette and other tobacco product use” among American youth, at a time when the agency has threatened stores selling e-cigarettes to minors and seized thousands of documents from Juul Labs, the maker of a popular vaporising product, during a surprise inspection of the company’s corporate headquarters.
“I’ll tell you this. If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat,” Mr Gottlieb said. “It could be ‘game over’ for some these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process. I think the stakes are that high.”
The commissioner added the possible removal of e-cigarette products “would be a blow” for adult smokers, who he said “could potentially benefit from these products.”