Six deaths from vaping-related lung illnesses as cases increase

A woman in Kansas is the sixth person to die in the U.S. from the severe respiratory illness being linked to vaping, health officials in the state confirmed Tuesday.

The woman was over 50 with a history of health problems. However, doctors say it’s clear vaping was the cause of her rapid deterioration.

“She had some underlying medical illnesses, but nothing that would have foretold the fact that within a week after starting using e-cigarettes for the first time, she developed full-blown acute respiratory distress syndrome and died,” Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told NBC News.

Sept. 9, 201902:04

Acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, occurs when the lungs fill with fluid.

Though many patients across the nation have been in their late teens, 20s or 30s, Norman said the Kansas death is a warning that older adults may be at particular risk.

“It’s a reminder that older people with pre-existing illnesses are probably going to have worse clinical outcomes if they do develop problems with vaping,” Norman said.

The Kansas woman had been one of six cases of vaping-related illness either confirmed or under investigation in that state, a number that Norman predicted will grow.

The other five vaping-related deaths were previously reported in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and California.

State health departments were aware of at least 483 confirmed or suspected cases in 39 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands by Tuesday afternoon, a jump from the 450 cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

The rapid and worrisome increase has now prompted a Congressional hearing on the matter, scheduled for later this month.

Patients tend to arrive at the hospital short of breath and coughing. Many have also had fevers, general fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. It is not unusual for patients to be put into intensive care units, and on ventilators. All reported vaping nicotine, THC or a combination of the two in the days and weeks before falling ill.

The CDC has recommended people stay away from vaping devices while investigators work to pinpoint exactly what’s behind the illnesses.

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