Dept. of Health confirms 1st death from vaping-related lung injury in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV/CNS) — Officials have confirmed the first death of a Virginian to the recent spree of lung illnesses connected to vaping.

Photo Source: Pixabay / MGN

According to the Virginia Department of Health, they confirmed on Oct. 1 that a Virginia resident has died for the first time in the outbreak of lung injuries (officials say injury is a better way than illness to describe what happens to the lungs in these cases). The death was reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, N.C. on September 26, 2019.

“I am deeply saddened to announce the first death of a Virginia resident related to this outbreak. Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA.

The department stated that the person who died was an adult from southwest Virginia, but that they would not release any additional details.

As of the end of September, there have been 31 lung injury cases, including the death, in Virginia. That makes up just part of the total 805 cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide.

Twelve other deaths have been confirmed in 10 states.

In their press release, the Virginia Department of Health stated that the cause of the outbreak has still not been pinpointed, but they encourage anyone concerned about the spree of lung injuries to refrain from using e-cigarette products altogether.

An issue that researchers have found increasingly important while looking into these cases, though, is purchasing vape products off the street.

"Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer," the VDH said.

Recently, Waynesboro police seized over 1,000 vape pen cartridges branded as "Dank" that were not legitimate products and had been explicitly linked to the recent spree of lung injuries. The cartridges claimed to contain 90% liquid THC.

But vape pen cartridges claiming to contain THC, especially in states like ours where they're not legal, have been one of the biggest factors investigators have been looking into across the country. Cartridges sold on the street are not regulated in any way, so you have no idea what's actually in the liquid you're vaping.

Officials are specifically looking into the presence of vitamin E acetate as a commonality among many samples tested containing THC; in high quantities, vitamin E acetate can cause serious lung issues.

Most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, the Department of Health reiterated.

E-cigarette users should watch for these symptoms:

• Coughing
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Fever
• Abdominal pain
• Chest pain
• Vomiting

“Promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop,” the Health Department said. The agency has more information about vaping and lung injuries at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/vdhlivewell/vaping/.