530 Confirmed Vaping Illnesses, Most Misdiagnosed as Pneumonia

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A series of patients in Wisconsin and Illinois had chest pain and shortness of breath. The doctors diagnosed pneumonia.

Vaping-related illnesses look suspiciously like pneumonia, so much so that hundreds of patients were misdiagnosed.

But why all the sudden cases?

Alarm bells went off and the doctors started talking to each other. That's How Doctors Uncovered the Vaping Crisis.

Health authorities now count 530 confirmed and probable cases of the vaping-related illness across 38 states and one U.S. territory. Eight people have died, the authorities say, the latest in Missouri.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are probing what causes the illness and which chemicals and devices were used by patients. The FDA is conducting a criminal probe. The CDC, along with doctors and state and local health officials, have urged vapers to stop, or at least stay away from vaporizers, cartridges and liquids sold on the street.

“Once you see the connection, you can’t unsee it,” said Frank Leone, a pulmonologist at Penn Medicine. “The assumptions that would have guided care a month ago no longer do.

Patients suffer from shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain, and some also experience gastrointestinal issues, fever and weight loss. Most chest X-rays or CT scans show hazy, white opaque areas in the lungs, but there’s typically no infection. Almost all patients are hospitalized, and many require help breathing.

Symptoms and Usage

Misdiagnosis

When patients showed up with halting breaths and chest pain, doctors and nurses commonly diagnosed pneumonia, a condition they saw often.

“They’re similar to other lung diseases,” said Meghan Fitzpatrick, a pulmonologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center East. “Until late summer, this wasn’t an entity that was on our radar.”

Federal Regulation

On August 8, 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated electronic cigarettes products as tobacco products and banned sales to minors. The FDA classifies e-cigarettes as drug delivery devices and subject to regulation under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The Trump administration is working on plans to ban e-cigarette liquid flavors.

State Regulation

13 states, 2 territories, and 841 municipalities have outlawed vaping in smoke-free public areas, as of April 2019. High schools and some middle schools throughout the US have been revising their tobacco rules to ban vaping on school grounds.

Trump Moves to Ban Flavored Vaping Products

On September 11, Trump Moved to Ban Flavored Vaping Products to Discourage Young People from E-Cigarettes

Michigan, New York Outlaw Vape Flavors

On September 18, the Chicago Tribune reported Michigan joins New York in outlawing vape flavors. Overseas, India prohibits all e-cigs, while Juul sales are halted in China.

Walmart Bans E-Cigarettes

The Rolling Stone reports Walmart Bans E-Cigarettes

In the midst of a nationwide vaping-related illness epidemic that has resulted in at least eight deaths, Walmart has decided not to stop selling e-cigarettes, the company announced Friday.

While the cause of the vaping-related epidemic is unknown, some of the cases have involved black-market THC cartridges cut with vitamin E acetate, a substance most often used in skin cream that is extremely toxic if inhaled. Black-market THC vape cartridge manufacturers have been known to add vitamin E acetate as a thickening agent to vaping fluid, and three companies that sell such agents have been subpoenaed by the New York State Health Department.

In a call with reporters, Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, denied that vitamin E acetate was the sole culprit behind the epidemic. “There’s no one compound, ingredient, constituent, including Vitamin E acetate that is showing up in all of the samples tested, and I’ll just need to leave it at that more general level,” he said on Thursday.

States like Michigan and New York have passed legislation banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, with Governor Andrew Cuomo banning the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes on Monday. President Donald Trump has also indicated that his administration was mulling a nationwide flavored e-cigarette ban. “We can’t allow people to get sick. And we can’t have our kids be so affected,” he told reporters last week.

Questions Linger

Will banning vape flavors lead to less vaping or further complications from illicit manufacturers?

I suspect we will soon find out.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (16)
No. 1-10
msurkan
msurkan

Do we know that all the cases can be attributed to the use of black-market products?

shamrock
shamrock

Very weird, people have been vaporizing tobacco and other substances in Hookahs for over 500 years. I hope they get to the bottom of it.

njbr
njbr

The lungs are not intended to process oils--google "popcorn lung" and I guarantee you'll never smell microwave popcorn in the same way again.

njbr
njbr

.....Even though we know that diacetyl causes popcorn lung, this chemical is found in many e-cigarette flavors. It is added to "e-juice" liquid by some e-cigarette companies to complement flavorings such as vanilla, maple, coconut and more. So while diacetyl was swiftly removed from popcorn products since it could cause this devastating disease among factory workers, e-cigarette users are now directly inhaling this harmful chemical into their lungs. In fact, researchers at Harvard found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contained diacetyl. The study also found two similarly harmful chemicals—2,3 pentanedione and acetoin—present in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors it tested. And roughly 92 percent of the e-cigarettes had one of the three chemicals present.... American Lung Association

Not such a mystery now, is it?

Latkes
Latkes

Interesting that there is suddenly a big campaign against vaping.

It's worth noting that the governments get a big cut from regular cigarette sales. On top of that many state and provincial (in Canada) governments depend on annualized payments from big tobacco companies after lawsuits ordered them to pay billions over decades.

E-Cigs interfere with these schemes.

(I don't smoke, nor vape, btw.)

Harbour
Harbour

Hysteria with this reminds me people are easily manipulated and don’t do enough research.

marcus1980
marcus1980

Crazy it's taken them this long to only get to where they are now.

When the news first broke I spent about 10min online researching and came across articles from 2017 and 2018 referencing hospitalizations of people after vaping synthetic THC oils. Same health issues, same everything. Just no international media attention.

When a when bunch of people get sick very close together it's always a "bad batch' of something that hit the streets. Just like a bad batch of contaminated lettuce.

Synthetic (black market) THC often goes by the name K2 or Spice and is sold in gas stations and convenience stores. Very easy for kids to access. It comes with a "Not for human consumption" warning label so it's legal to sell.

This wasn't rocket science to crack. Even the first few kids in the hospital early on admitted that it was synthetic THC oil that they vaped. Why'd the media ignore that though? Or did they simply not investigate below the surface? Is it because it's election season? Just follow the money trail.

Sechel
Sechel

Let the market regulate itself! People will die and everyone else will figure it out.

Webej
Webej

Typically American response. Ban. Interdict. Punish. Jail 'm. Shoot'm. War on Vape. Some form of compulsory certification and package notification seems a better idea, especially after finding out what exactly the cause(s) are. Full disclosure: Don't smoke, drink, blow or vape.

Aaaal
Aaaal

Great job, medical industrial complex. Pneumonia? Doctors are stupid.