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More than 2,500 reports of severe lung injuries from vaping have surfaced nationwide in recent months, and federal health officials indicate that many of those who have experienced problems suffer relapses, resulting in re-hospitalization or death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging doctors to monitor vaping lung injury patients more carefully, as they are prone to requiring additional treatment, even initial discharge from the hospital.
About 3% of patients with vaping lung injuries have been rehospitalized, and seven people died after they were initially discharged from the hospital, according to statistics outlined in the CDC’s Morbidly and Mortality Weekly Report published on December 20, which detailed case reports and relapses through October 31, 2019.
According to the latest update provided by health officials, there are now at least 2,506 confirmed cases of the vaping illness, including reports of problems from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The widespread vaping illnesses have resulted in at least 54 deaths in 27 states and D.C.
After analyzing data from the 2,400 cases reported through the end of October 2019, researchers concluded that 25% of rehospitalizations and deaths occurred two days after patients were discharged.
Roughly 1,100 patients were discharged on or before October 31, and 3% were rehospitalized, with an average of four days between discharge and rehospitalization. Seven deaths occurred after discharge with only three days between discharge and death, on average.
More than 70% of patients who were rehospitalized, and 83% of patients who died had one or more chronic conditions, like cardiac disease, chronic pulmonary disease, and diabetes.
On average, patients who died after discharge were older, at about 54 years.
Doctors and hospital staff must focus on discharge planning, patient clinical stability before discharge, and conduct patient follow-ups 48 hours after hospital discharge to help prevent unnecessary relapses and deaths from vaping related lung illnesses, the CDC advises.
THC Websites Seized
Amid concerns that the lung injury problems are linked to vaping with THC products, the FDA and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced last week that 44 websites advertising the sale of illicit THC vaping cartridges to U.S. consumers have been seized, as part of an initiative known as “Operation Vapor Lock”.
The program is part of continued work by federal, state and local authorities to investigate the supply chain of vaping products associated with recent lung injuries, including products advertising sales of illicit drug products, such as those of marijuana in this case.
Online networks were identified from interviews with patients and families. The websites advertised THC vaping cartridges with varying levels of THC. However, despite the progress gained from the seizure of the websites, none of the 44 websites have been confirmed to be linked to any cases of lung injury.
Lung illness from vaping was first reported by health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin in early August, after several cases of severe lung injury were identified, where e-cigarettes were the only common factor. However, since then, health officials nationwide have either identified similar cases, or realized they had treated similar cases without knowing about the e-cigarette connection.
In recent months, even beyond the lung injuries, there has been increased scrutiny of e-cigarettes, which have become the most popular form of nicotine among teens and young adults. In addition to the risk of e-cigarette respiratory illnesses, there is also now a new generation of teens addicted to JUUL, which contains high levels of nicotine and was aggressively marketed to individuals who were not prior cigarette smokers.
A growing number of JUUL vaping lawsuits are now being pursued against the manufacturers, alleging that the products were illegally marketed to kids while failing to disclose that each of the e-cigarette pods contain more nicotine than a pack of tobacco cigarettes.