Southwest Virginian is first to die statewide from vaping-related illness


FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 file photo, a salesman at a vape shop exhales while using an e-cigarette in Maine. On Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 530 confirmed and probable cases have been reported from 38 states and one U.S. territory. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The first vaping-related death of a Virginia resident has been confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health, the 16th person to die nationwide in connection to a recent outbreak involving e-cigarettes.

The adult was from southwest Virginia, but VDH said in a press release that no other details would be released due to patient confidentiality. Their death was first reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, on September 26.

VDH says 30 other lung injury cases related to vaping have been reported statewide as of Sept. 30. And at least 805 cases, involving patients from 46 states and one U.S. territory, have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control as of Sept. 24.

The cause of the mysterious illness is still unknown, but it’s been connected to many black market products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The CDC has warned e-cigarette users to stay away from buying bootleg vaping products off the street, or modifying products in any way.

Health officials say all of the cases involved patients that have used e-cigarettes for weeks or months before symptoms started. Many of the patients nationwide have also used vaping products with THC, while some cases involve patients who only used products containing nicotine.

Though there’s been a spike in usage of the addictive, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes among children, the department of health emphasized that e-cigarettes should never be used by children, as well as pregnant women and those who currently don’t use tobacco products (e-cigarettes have been used to wean off traditional tobacco products).

Anyone who’s concerned about the risks is urged to stop using e-cigarette products while investigators search for the cause of the outbreak, VDH says. People with symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever) are encouraged to visit their local health department.

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