The mysterious spate of vape-related deaths and illnesses continues to grow, confounding experts. Here’s what officials knew and when.

By Jeremy Berke | Business Insider

vape

AP Photo/Steve Helber

The mysterious spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths continues to grow.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 380 confirmed and probable cases of vape-related illnesses have been reported in 26 states across the US. The illnesses have claimed six lives, and doctors and other health experts fear there could be more on the way.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced it will push for a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol flavors.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement

The administration has separately recommended that people not use e-cigarettes.

“While the investigation is ongoing, CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes, because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing the severe lung disease,” Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman of the CDC said on a press call last week, reports Business Insider’s Hilary Brueck.

While it’s not yet clear what exactly is causing these illnesses, it seems to affect younger people — mostly men — who are vaporizing cannabinoids like THC.

The culprit, according to some experts, might be chemicals like vitamin-E acetate that are used to emulsify THC and CBD in illegal, unregulated vaporizers.

“Even if most lung-injury cases are traced to chemicals used to emulsify THC or CBD into illegal vaping ‘juices,’ it doesn’t let legally sold, nicotine-based e-cigs off the hook. They must do more to ensure safety of their products by engaging review process and ending youth use,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, said on Friday.

“Legitimate e-liquids are generally based on chemicals that are water-soluble, not oils that can cause acute lung injury. High levels of vitamin E acetate were found in nearly all cannabis-containing vapes tested by NYS Department of Health. Nobody should use illegal vape products,” Gottlieb said.

Here’s what officials knew when. We’ll update this as more information comes to light:

August 17:

Associated Press

CDC officials say they are actively investigating almost 94 cases of vape-related illnesses in 14 states. That number would grow to 200 cases in 22 states.

Officials haven’t yet determined the specific causes of the illness, but it is thought that oils and chemicals used to emulsify THC, CBD, and nicotine in illicit vapes is to blame. 

August 23:

Associated Press

 The first vape-related death is reported in Illinois.

The person, who has remained unnamed, was hospitalized with severe breathing difficulties, according to officials. He was reportedly using e-cigarettes to consume nicotine. 

September 3:

Facebook/selectstrains

Oregon’s Health Authority says it is actively investigating the death of an individual with a severe respiratory illness following the use of an e-cigarette.

While officials have not yet determined the root cause of the middle-aged person’s illness, he had reportedly fallen ill after vaporizing marijuana oil purchased at a legal cannabis dispensary, reports The Associated Press. 

September 4:

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, writes an editorial in The Washington Post urging federal officials to take action in investigating the causes of these illnesses and deaths.

“Bright lines must be drawn between less-harmful ingredients and those that cause undue risk. That would arm regulators with the information to crack down on illegal and dangerous vape juices. It’s also time to end the political ambivalence that allows THC and CBD to evade oversight,” Gottlieb wrote. 

September 6:

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

Indiana health officials confirm a third vape-related death. Shortly afterward, officials in Minnesota confirm a fourth, and then a fifth in California.

Like the other deaths, officials have yet to determine a root cause. However, the 65-year old Minnesota man had a history of lung disease. He fell ill after vaping an “illicit” THC product, The New York Times reports. 

September 6:

Wikimedia Commons

Acting FDA Chief Ned Sharpless says “Our investigation into the concerning reports of respiratory illness and deaths associated w/ vaping is a top priority for FDA and our federal, state, local health partners. We’re working tirelessly to gather and analyze information about these incidents,” on Twitter

Sen. Minority Whip Dick Durbin pushed Sharpless to act quicker in a letter addressed to Sharpless on Friday. 

September 10:

Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Officials from the Kansas Department of Health announce the sixth vape-related death of a man “over the age of 50.”

“If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop. The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify,” Secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Dr. Lee Norman said in a statement.

September 11:

U.S. President Donald Trump announces opioid response grants to state governments in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Erin Scott/Reuters

The Trump Administration announces it’s pushing for a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes in the US, including mint and menthol flavors.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

September 12:

Reuters / Brendan McDermid

On Thursday, the CDC released new numbers on the outbreak, with 380 confirmed and probable cases of illness in 26 states since June. Six people have died, the agency said.

The new illness numbers are slightly lower than previous figures because they include only cases that investigators have confirmed or come close to confirming. The other cases were found to have been the result of other causes.

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