Illinois patient may be first to die of vaping-linked lung illness

Illinois patient may be first to die after developing vaping-linked lung illness, state health officials say

  • An unidentified patient in Illinois has died after developing a severe lung illness
  • Doctors suspect their illness was one of over 150 in the US linked to vaping  
  • This is the first death in the spate of respiratory illnesses that officials think could be tied to e-cigarettes  

Illinois health officials are reporting what could be United States’ first death tied to vaping.

In a Friday news release, the Illinois Department of Public Health says a person who recently vaped died after being hospitalized with ‘severe respiratory illness.’ 

The agency didn’t give any other information about the patient, including a name or where the person lived.

Melaney Arnold, an agency spokeswoman, says the death is the first in the state that could be linked to vaping. 

An Illinois patient may be the first to die after developing severe lung damage officials suspect is tied to vaping 

The release also says the number of people who have experienced respiratory illness after vaping doubled to 22 in the past week.

In a Wednesday news release announcing 149 cases of severe lung illness nationwide that may be tied to vaping, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no deaths associated with vaping had been reported.

Illinois, where the patient died, was one of the first to report a suspicious series of severe, sudden lung illnesses among mostly young adult and teenage patients, all of whom reported using e-cigarettes. 

The first slew of illnesses was concentrated on the Midwest. Cases have now been reported in 17 states throughout the US, including Colorado, which confirmed its first case on Friday, and Illinois. 

The state health department’s announcement comes just one day after a Texas family said they believe vaping was to blame for the death of 30-year-old Brandon Wells, who died in 2013. 

Wells mother and sister say he was a heavy e-cigarette user but the martial arts teacher and masseuse was otherwise healthy. 

He died in his sleep after developing a sudden, persistent cough and racing heart beat, but an autopsy confirmed what looked like a form of pneumonia, and bleeding and fluid buildup in his lungs. 

In many of the recent 153 suspected vaping-related lung illness cases, doctors first thought the patients had pneumonia from scans of their lungs – but they tested negative for the infection. 

Patients have developed symptoms of a range of severity. 

Some have even had to be placed into medically induced comas to allow their failing lungs to heal. 

Others required respirators to assist their damaged lungs. 

The CDC is now coordinating with state officials in Illinois and other states that have reported high volumes of these lung illnesses to the national agency to investigate if and how vaping might be causing life-threatening damage. 

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is demanding that e-cigarette companies like Juul hand over information on any testing they performed on their devices to analyze the potential health effects. 

The agency is also investigating Juul on suspicion that the company intentionally designed its marketing campaigns to target underage, non-smoking youth. 

A second CDC investigation is probing a series of seizures cases that may be linked to vaping. 

Research has suggested that vaping may have effectively the same disastrous effects on the blood vessels that smoking combustible cigarettes does – even if the e-liquids in the devices doesn’t contain nicotine. 

The authors of once such study suggested that, when heated, the ingredients – including solvents and flavorings – used to make e-liquid might ‘expose users to multiple insults to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.’ 

Scientists do not yet know exactly how e-cigarettes can cause severe lung damage, but they, along with parents and public health officials, are becoming increasingly concerned over the wildly popular devices that may even be deadly.  


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