SSM Health Medical Minute – What we know about the vaping linked illness and deaths

ST. LOUIS - The vaping death toll is at 21 as of October 9 and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is becoming more and more concerned about the health impacts of vaping.

In August, the CDC began investigating dozens of cases where severe pulmonary disease has hospitalized people in at least 15 states. That has since ballooned to 450 possible cases in 33 states, including 21 deaths.

Medical experts and federal health officials are warning the public about the dangers of vaping and are discouraging use of the devices.

The cases in question have occurred primarily with young people and are possibly associated with e-cigarettes. Many (though not all) of the patients who have fallen ill had used cannabis-derived vaping products. Some had reported using nicotine only.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, fever, vomiting, headache, etc.

Dr. Mohsin Ehsan is a pulmonologist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles says he has not yet had a vaping case at his hospital, but says, “we don’t have longtime data to suggest how vaping impacts the lungs, but certainly vaping exposes the lungs to the components and given the recent cases, it seems that it causes intense inflammation of some kind that is making people sick.”

He says, so far, all available cases that have been reported are directly linked to vaping. We know for a fact that the deaths and illnesses are related to vaping as the patients report they have been vaping within a week of the time they are ill.

Dr. Ehsan says vaping and e-cigarettes are marketed with different flavors and marketers, “somehow portrays it [vaping] as a safer option [than smoking cigarettes], plus it’s trendy in younger people. People also have peer pressure to smoke. It is easily available, it’s cheaper and allowed to smoke it in places where smoking is not allowed.” Dr. Ehsan said the narrative for vaping needs to change. “We have seen in studies that using e-cigarettes does not cause or is not more effective in quitting smoking.”

To find out your risks, click here. SSM Health pulmonologists provide consultation, diagnosis, and care for illnesses and conditions that affect breathing and the lungs. In many cases, these conditions also involve the upper respiratory tract and heart.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Wednesday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.​

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