More Than 20 American Teens Hospitalized After Severe Lung Disease Linked to Vaping

By GQ Pan

More than 20 young people across the country have been hospitalized for severe lung injuries potentially linked to vaping.

Eleven teenagers and young adults in Wisconsin, six in Illinois, and four in Minnesota have been hospitalized with badly damaged lungs, health agencies in the three states reported earlier this month.

State health officials suspect the hospitalizations are the result of using e-cigarettes by these otherwise healthy young people.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WisDHS) reported that the hospitalized patients experienced shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough, and weight loss, with some needing assistance to breathe. Although their conditions have improved with treatment, whether there will be long-term health effects remains uncertain.

“We are currently interviewing patients, all of whom reported recent vaping,” said Andrea Palm, the Secretary-designee of WisDHS. She added that investigators are gathering information about the names and types of vape products that were used by the patients, hoping to find a common link.

“We strongly urge people to avoid vaping products and e-cigarettes. Anyone—especially young people who have recently vaped—and experiencing unexplained breathing problems should see a doctor,” said Palm.

In Illinois, The state’s Department of Public Health (IDPH) said last Thursday it had received reports of six young people experiencing severe breathing problems after vaping and is investigating five more individuals.

IDPH’s statement said the patients had suffered the symptoms for days or even weeks before seeking medical help and that it was only when their symptoms got progressively worse that they went to the hospital.

“The short- and long-term effects of vaping are still being researched, but these recent hospitalizations have shown that there is the potential for immediate health consequences,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued a warning after receiving four case reports last week from Children’s Minnesota. They reported that young patients suffering from lung illnesses had been hospitalized for more than a week, with some “admitted to the intensive care unit.”

These cases, according to MDH, appear to be similar to those recently reported in Wisconsin and Illinois, but it is too early to say whether they are connected.

“There are still many unanswered questions, but the health harms emerging from the current epidemic of youth vaping in Minnesota continue to increase,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist, and MDH medical director. “We are encouraging providers and parents to be on the look-out for vaping as a cause for unexplained breathing problems and lung injury and disease.”

It is unknown why the reports of teens possibly sickened by e-cigarettes mostly come from the Midwest.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it received 127 reports of people who had seizures after vaping. They urge the public to continue submitting reports if they had experienced similar symptoms.

The FDA said they don’t have enough information to determine if e-cigarettes are causing these reported incidents. In April, the FDA did note, however, that seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine poisoning. E-cigarette liquid, which is not currently under the regulation of the FDA, can contain a high percentage of nicotine.