A person in Oregon has died from a severe lung illness after vaping. According to Dr. Ann Thomas, a pediatrician and public health physician who is leading Oregon’s incident management team, the person died in July after being hospitalized and put on a ventilator. The person has not been named and investigators have not disclosed their age or gender.
Dr. Thomas revealed that the patient was “otherwise healthy and quickly became very ill” after vaping T.H.C. from a product purchased at a recreational marijuana shop in the state. The doctor who treated the patient recognized after the death that the patient’s lung infection was consistent with a severe lung disease that has potentially been linked to vaping. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 200 cases of the illness reported in 25 states.
Vaping devices work by turning liquids containing nicotine or T.H.C. into aerosolized vapor that appears to be a safer way for smokers to get their fix without inhaling the cancer-causing toxins that come from burning what they are smoking. Unfortunately, vaping technology is too new for there to be long-term research about its health effects. Health investigators believe there are dozens of possible chemicals inhaled through vaping that could be causing the mysterious illness.
The condition appears to be producing a severe inflammatory reaction in the lungs that is a lot like pneumonia. Most of the patients have been hospitalized with severe shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, fever and fatigue. Some patients have been successfully treated with heavy doses of steroids while some have been put on ventilators or in intensive care units.
The Oregon death is the first in the country involving a vaping product containing marijuana oil from a legal dispensary. Officials have not determined whether the product was contaminated or whether the person may have added something to the liquid in the device after buying it.
Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees Oregon’s legal marijuana industry, said the agency is prepared to use its tracking system to trace the origin of the vaping device involved and review all the testing results. The agency is also prepared to issue a recall of any product deemed unsafe.