Health and Science

'People are dying from vaping,' Kansas health chief says as state reports 9th fatality in US

Key Points
  • Kansas state health officials reported a second vaping death in the state.
  • The latest fatality brings the total number of vaping deaths in the U.S. to nine.
  • The vaping-related illness has sickened at least 530 people, the CDC said last week.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

Kansas health officials confirmed a second death in the state tied to vaping, bringing the death toll in the U.S. to nine.

U.S. health officials are still struggling to figure out the cause of a lung disease that has sickened 530 people across the nation.

"People are dying from vaping and there's hundreds of new cases each week of serious and fatal lung injuries from vaping," Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said in a video on the agency's web site. "We used to think that vaping was a fairly straight forward way for people to ween off nicotine, but with young people vaping now, and even older people doing it, there's lots of illnesses and curiously we don't know with 100% certainty what's causing it." 

The latest fatality was a Kansas man who was over 50 years old and had underlying health conditions, state officials said in a press release announcing the death on Monday

CDC: Vaping-related lung illness cases rise to 530 from 380
CDC: Vaping-related lung illness cases rise to 530 from 380

State health officials said the specifics regarding the type of e-cigarette product, device, and substances he used were unknown.

"The diagnosing physician reported that the patient had recently begun using e-cigarettes prior to the onset of the symptoms and prior to hospitalization," said Dr. Farah Ahmen, a state epidemiologist.

Of the nine cases in Kansas, five are male and four are female, ranging in age from 17 to 67 years old. Five of hte surviving patients have been released from the hospital and two remain hospitalized.

"We know that in vaping solutions, there's oils like Vitamin E acetate which is the one that's thought to be probably contributing, there's heavy metals, there's poisons," Dr. Norman said. "And we know that it looks like an oil infused into the lungs that is causing this, but the compound has not been 100% identified."

More than half of the total 530 patients have been under the age of 25, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said last week. A smaller fraction, 17% of the total, were over the age of 35.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee's panel on consumer products has scheduled a hearing on the illnesses Tuesday. Dr. Anne Schuchat, who's overseeing the investigation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is scheduled to testify along with Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health; Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association; and a parent.

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