Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hundreds hospitalized, five dead: Alarming new disease threat from vaping

There is increasing evidence that vaping can be even more dangerous, and dangerous faster, than smoking.

And within the past week, researchers identified a strange new lung disease associated with vaping, but itʻs just the start. Very little is known about it. Hundreds of vapers are being admitted to hospitals with lung disease.

(Image: Lipid-laden macrophages found in patients with vaping-related respiratory illness. Oily lipids are stained red. Credit, Andrew Hansen, Jordan Valley Medical Center)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control yesterday issued a report recommending Americans stop using vaping technologies. They said health departments in 25 states have reported more than 200 new cases of lung disease linked directly to vaping.

The Washington Post says that since that report, the count has risen to 450 cases in 33 states and one territory, with five deaths. 

Ironically, vaping was hailed as the great middle ground. Get the nicotine without all the other dangerous chemicals in cigarettes. A safer alternative. Instead, itʻs getting people sicker with lung disease even faster than cigarettes.

And it is potentially an epidemic. Vaping is huge, with a quarter of Hawai`i high school students using the e-cigarettes and a sixth of middle school students using.

There are fewer chemical compounds in vape fluids than in cigarettes, but increasingly, itʻs clear that there are other issues. Johns Hopkins produced an older balanced look at vaping here

It cites both the increased nicotine addiction hazard, and the direct health impacts of huge hits of nicotine, far stronger than you can get from a cigarette. But the new reports within the past week up the ante: the danger is from far more than nicotine.

There are other chemicals in vape fluids, and researchers do not yet know which one or which ones are causing the lung diseases theyʻre seeing. A New England Journal of Health report has just identified a new vaping lung disease that has sickened hundreds and has killed. Lung scans show damage that looks like severe pneumonia, but is not.

Ailing patientsʻ lungs have large white blood cells filled with globs of fat, and itʻs not yet clear whatʻs going on with them. Whether they are a symptom or a cause of the disease is not clear.

"While it is too soon to be sure, these lipid-laden macrophages may turn out to be useful to confirm or rule out this disease," said co-author Scott Aberegg, a critical care pulmonologist at the University of Utah.

Researchers across the country are seeing hospital admissions of vapers with breathing problems. A paper by doctors from Wisconsin and Illinois reported that of 53 reported cases, most of the patients are male, with an average age of 19, and that a majority (but not all) was taking both nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products via e-cigarettes. Almost all required hospitalization and one died.

The Utah doctors reported: "A previously healthy 21-year-old man who had been vaping nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) daily presented with 1 week of dyspnea, cough, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting." (Dyspnea is shortness of breath.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a paper this week citing hundreds of cases of severe lung disease associated with vaping. In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC said itʻs too early to know what the chemical cause is, but that thereʻs enough information to recommend against using e-cigarettes.

"Based on available information, the disease is likely caused by an unknown chemical exposure; no single product or substance is conclusively linked to the disease.

"Until a definitive cause is known, persons should consider not using e-cigarettes. Those who use e-cigarettes should seek medical attention for any health concerns. Clinicians should report possible cases to their local or state health department," the CDC said.

One of the issues is not knowing just what youʻre taking into your lungs: "Aerosols produced by e-cigarettes can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances, including heavy metals such as lead, volatile organic compounds, ultrafine particles, cancer-causing chemicals, or other agents such as chemicals used for cleaning the device," the CDC report said.

Symptoms may start with an unproductive cough, and as it progresses, many patients require oxygen to help them breathe.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019


Anonymous said...

Although the 5 deaths is alarming, the CDC reports that 480,000 deaths annually from smoking (over 1300/day). Vaping is probably not risk free, but the risk still seems multiple orders of magnitude less than cigarettes.

Jan T said...

You are missing the element of time. Vaping is new, and kids are dying. Average death for smokers is age 64. Im not sure we have a clue how high the death rate would be after decades of vaping.