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EVALI: The CDC has given a name to the vaping-related lung illness that has killed at least 33 people

Posted at 1:04 PM, Oct 16, 2019

The vaping-related lung illness that has sickened nearly 1,500 people across the country now has a name, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

EVALI, or e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, appeared in a newly issued guidance for health care providers from the CDC on Friday.

According to the latest data from the CDC, as of October 15, there have been 1,479 cases of EVALI in 49 states, Washington, D.C. and one U.S. territory. The only state that currently does not have any confirmed cases of EVALI is Alaska. In addition, there have been at least 33 deaths in 24 states connected to the illness: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. And there are more deaths currently under investigation, according to the CDC.

"At this time, FDA and CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries among EVALI cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products," the CDC said in the guidance issued Friday. "This outbreak might have more than one cause, and many different substances and product sources are still under investigation. To date, national and state data suggest that products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g., friends, family members, or illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak."

THC is the primary psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

However, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the CDC, said Friday that the ongoing investigation into EVALI "may take a few months" and could yield "multiple causes and potentially more than one root cause."

But the CDC is still recommending that people do not use vape products containing THC, according to the public health recommendation from Friday's notice.

"Therefore, CDC recommends that persons should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC," the notice says. "Persons should not buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, off the street. Persons should not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments."

Don't think you're off the hook if you use a vaping product without THC though.

"Given that the exclusive use of nicotine-containing products has been reported by a small percentage of persons with EVALI, and that many persons with EVALI report combined use of THC- and nicotine-containing products, the possibility that nicotine-containing products play a role in this outbreak cannot be excluded," the CDC said Friday. "Therefore, at present, CDC continues to recommend that persons consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain nicotine."