Public should avoid e-cigarettes during investigation of respiratory illness, US government advises

Child holding vape device

The public should “consider not using e-cigarette products” while investigations into the outbreak of a severe respiratory illness in e-cigarette users in the United States take place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended.

According to the CDC, as of 6 September 2019, 33 US states and one US territory reported more than 450 possible cases of respiratory illness associated with the use of e-cigarette products. Health officials in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon also confirmed five deaths from the illness.

The CDC said it has found no evidence of infectious disease so the respiratory illness was “likely associated with chemical exposure”, although the specific substance responsible is yet to be confirmed.

“The investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product that is linked to all cases,” the CDC said in an investigation notice, published on 6 September 2019.

“Many [of the affected patients] patients report using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol.”

State investigators are in the process of determining if cases are “confirmed” or “probable” by examining the medical records of suspected cases and consulting with clinical care teams to exclude other possible causes. Once this has been determined, the CDC said it would report the number of confirmed and probable cases seperately.

In the meantime, “while the investigation is ongoing, the CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes because, as of now, this is the primary means of preventing this type of severe lung disease”.

The CDC previously said on 21 August 2019 that the cases of respiratory illness are primarily appearing in teenagers and young people.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, September 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207041