An adult in Maine was sickened by using e-cigarettes, the first such case in the state, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.
The case involved an adult who experienced symptoms similar to those reported in other states, where people who used vape or e-cigarette products reported coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and abdominal pain.
No further information was available about the patient or the person’s symptoms. While it’s not clear how serious the illness is, no one is known to have died in Maine from a vaping-related illness, the Maine CDC said.
Federal health officials said Thursday that 530 people had fallen ill from the mysterious vaping-related lung ailment nationally, and seven of those people died from the illness. Officials said they had not determined a cause of the ailment, and there didn’t appear to be one product or substance linked to all the instances. Cases have been identified in at least 39 states.
“We are leaving no stone unturned,” Mitchell Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said during a news briefing Thursday.
Since August, the Maine CDC has requested that doctors in the state report cases involving vape use that include similar symptoms.
Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine CDC, cited privacy concerns and declined to provide specifics about when the Maine adult became ill, the person’s age and gender or where in the state the patient lives.
But Long cautioned against vape or e-cigarette usage.
“We’re trying to get the message out that if people haven’t started vaping, they shouldn’t. People who do vape do need to be aware of the risks that are involved, and public health officials are still ascertaining what those risks are as new information comes in,” he said.
Vaping has been viewed by many users as a safer alternative to smoking. But the surge of vaping-related illnesses has intensified concerns about a dramatic increase in use of e-cigarettes among school-aged children, and the absence of regulation and knowledge about the short- and long-term health effects.
Maine school districts have been struggling with a rise in vaping in school bathrooms, hallways and even in classrooms. Some of the devices, such as the popular Juul e-cigarettes, are small and easy to conceal. The devices heat up liquid containing nicotine or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The liquids can come in sweet flavors that critics say are intended to appeal to children.
In December, 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared vaping an epidemic among youth and young adults.
A new Maine law that took effect Thursday bans vaping on school grounds statewide. New York became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday. And, on Friday, Walmart said it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its stores and Sam’s Clubs.
Doctors around the country have now seen hundreds of cases where patients shown up in a hospital emergency room because of symptoms that appear suddenly and include dangerous respiratory damage. Patients’ lungs can look like they are ravaged by a disease, or as if they’d been exposed to a noxious industrial chemical. The only thing they share in common is the use of vaping products.
Cases have appears over the past several years, but the severity and number of cases has surged, leading doctors to suspect some change in vaping devices or the liquids loaded into them.
Illnesses have been reported most often in patients inhaling products with THC, according to federal officials. Some are linked to the use of devices with both THC and nicotine, while a small number were using nicotine devices alone.