A patient who contracted a serious lung disease after vaping has died in Illinois, health officials revealed, marking what is believed to be the first death in the U.S. linked to the smoking alternative that has become popular with teens and young adults.
The Illinois Department of Health said the person who died was hospitalized after falling ill following vaping with severe respiratory illness. No information about the patient, including name, exact age, hometown or date of death was released.
The state received the report of the death Thursday, said Dr. Jennifer Layden, the Illinois agency’s chief medical officer.
Illinois health officials said Friday that 22 people ranging in age from 17-38 years have experienced respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes or vaping in the past week.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 193 people in 22 states have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping. However, they said a clear-cut common cause of the illnesses hasn’t been identified and that they are being called “potential cases” that are still under investigation.
There have been no additional reported deaths.
“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in the release. “We requested a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.”
All of the sickened have been teens or adults who had used an electronic cigarette or some other kind of vaping device. Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, infectious diseases have been ruled out.
Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have been worried about kids using them. Most of the concern has focused on nicotine, which health officials say is harmful to developing brains and might make kids more likely to take up cigarettes.
But some vaping products have been found to contain other potentially harmful substances, including flavoring chemicals and oils used for vaping marijuana, experts say.
Health officials said they need to gather more information.
"Investigators haven't identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all of the cases," Ileana Arias, a CDC official who oversees non-infectious disease, said during a Friday call with reporters. She also said the sickened might be dealing with different illnesses that have similar symptoms.
Fox News' Madeline Farber and Alexandra Deabler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.