Illinois health officials said Friday that a patient who contracted a serious lung disease after vaping has died, which could make it the first death in the United States linked to the smoking alternative that has become popular with teens and young adults.
According to a news release from the Illinois Department of Health, 22 people, ranging in age from 17-38 years, experienced respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes or vaping in the past week.
The person who died was hospitalized with severe respiratory illness, according to the news release. No other information about the patient, including the name, exact age, hometown or date of death was shared.
“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in the release. “We requested a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.”
The state Department of Health is currently working with local health departments to investigate 12 other people experiencing respiratory symptoms, including a cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea.
A sweep of vaping-related illnesses has affected teens and adults across the nation in recent weeks, prompting the CDC to launch a formal investigation. Meanwhile, health officials in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, among other states, are scrambling to determine what exactly is causing these “severe” pulmonary illnesses in young people who reported vaping prior to falling ill.
Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, infectious diseases have been ruled out.
On Wednesday, the CDC issued a news release in which it said 149 people nationwide had contracted a severe respiratory illness after vaping, but that there hadn’t been any deaths reported as of then.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.