Vaping crisis gets worse as death toll reaches 37 and number of people suffering from e-cigarette illnesses climbs to 1,888

The previous CDC estimates in early October put the number of fatalities at 24.

                            Vaping crisis gets worse as death toll reaches  37 and number of people suffering from e-cigarette illnesses climbs to 1,888
(Source : Getty Images)

The number of vaping deaths touched 37as on October 29, 2019 in the US, an increase of 13 over the previous estimates, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The previous estimates, that were published in early October, said e-cigarette or vaping, product use associated lung injury or EVALI had claimed 24 lives across the US.

So far, CDC has recorded these 37 deaths in 24 states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Until October 15, 2019, the health agency found that the median age of deceased patients was 53 years and it ranged from 17 to 75 years. CDC is currently investigating more deaths. 

The number of people suffering from the disease has also shot up. As of October 29, 2019, CDC has reported 1,888  confirmed and possible cases in 49 states, except Alaska, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Island.

From their analysis of 1,378 patients conducted up to October 15, 2019, they observed that 70% of patients are male.  And from their analysis on age group (1,364 patients), CDC found that 14% of patients are under 18 years old; 40% of patients are18 to 24 years old; 25% of patients are 25 to 34 years old; and 21% of patients are 35 years or older.

The CDC has issued a warning asking people to stay away from e-cigarettes or vaping products containing a cannabis compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They suspect that THC is the most likely culprit behind the outbreak.

However, the evidence is still hazy. “No single compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these injuries to date, and there might be more than one cause. Available data suggest THC-containing products play a role in this outbreak, but the specific chemical or chemicals responsible for EVALI have not yet been identified, and nicotine-containing products have not been excluded as a possible cause,” CDC had said earlier.

Radiologists unearth more evidence

As the vaping-related fatalities continue to rise, scientists are still trying to understand the mysterious condition. But a recent report presents a clear picture of the condition: a group of radiologists have presented evidence on the damage vaping or e-cigarettes inflict on the lungs, suggesting that condition is more serious than previously thought.

"Radiologists will continue to play an important role in recognizing this emerging entity", says Dr. Abbara, the editor of Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging. "We encourage the medical imaging community to produce scientific evidence and medical knowledge to help advance our collective understanding of the effects of e-cigarette use on the lungs and other organ systems.

In light of the spike in EVALI cases, Dr. Abbara says, "It is crucial that radiologists drive some of the initiatives to better understand the mechanisms of disease presentation, facilitating the diagnosis and management of these patients."

In one such initiative, the radiologist presents their findings after examining a 24-year-old male patient, who complained of shortness of breath, cough, chest pain and fever - all of which are symptoms of EVALI.

The patient was reported to be using e-cigarettes and cannabis on a daily basis. When the doctors examined his lungs using CT X-ray, they found fat accumulation. The fat, in turn, may be traced back to the fats from vaping oils, according to the doctors.

These findings could help diagnose EVALI. Earlier, diagnosing the condition posed challenges due to the lack of accurate tests. But things could change now. "The diagnosis of lung injury due to e-cigarette use should be a differential possibility in patients presenting with bilateral lung opacities [fat accumulation] on radiographs or ground-glass opacities on chest CT images and exposure to e-cigarette products within 90 days of the presentation", says Dr. Abbara.

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