Vaping-related lung injuries have caused 57 confirmed deaths in 27 states and the District of Columbia, including the youngest victim yet at 15 years old, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The numbers, current as of January 7, include a total of 2,602 people hospitalized for lung injury linked to vaping in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Dallas County health officials reported on New Year’s Eve that a Dallas County teenager with a “chronic underlying medical condition” had become the county’s first death linked to the lung injury outbreak. On Thursday, Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed to CNN that the person was 15.
“Reporting a death in a teen due to EVALI is so tragic,” DCHHS Director Dr. Philip Huang said in a statement last week. The term EVALI is used among health officials as shorthand for “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury.”
“We are seeing that severe lung damage, and even death, can occur with just short term use of these products,” Huang added.
The CDC has not specified details on the identities of those who have died. The agency did say, however, that the median age of deceased patients was 51 years, with deaths ranging from age 15 through age 75. More deaths are still under investigation, the agency said.
The CDC’s previous report on the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries, released on December 31, recorded 2,561 hospitalized cases of lung injury linked to vaping and 55 confirmed deaths – the youngest being 17. The CDC decided in early December to report only cases that resulted in hospitalization.
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Data suggest the outbreak might be on the decline after peaking in September, the CDC said, but states continue to report new cases and deaths to the agency on a weekly basis.
The CDC recommends that people not use e-cigarette products that contain THC. While it appears that vitamin E acetate, a thickener used in some vaping products, is associated with lung injury cases, the agency can’t rule out other chemicals, it said. Moreover, no single product or brand has been identified as a sole culprit.