What You Need to Know About the Vape Outbreak

Last updated: 11/12/19

A sudden and severe lung illness from vaping has affected over a thousand people in the US1, becoming a public health crisis. Nearly all patients have been hospitalized, receiving treatments including medically induced coma2 3 4 breathing machines5, and advanced life support interventions.6 7 8

Lung injury patients have experienced a range of symptoms prior to being diagnosed. Doctors have treated patients with varying severity of symptoms from trouble breathing9 to lung damage that resembles chemical burns.10 Current investigations have not revealed the exact cause of the outbreak, whether it’s from the vape liquid or toxic chemicals released from the device itself.11 But here’s what is known:

  • 2,051 cases of vaping lung illnesses are reported so far, across 49 states12, including more than a 100 cases in California.13
  • 39 vaping deaths have been confirmed nationwide, including three in California.14 15
  • 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. However, the liquids in vape devices associated with the lung illness include nicotine, THC, and CBD. Many people report vaping a combination of cannabis and nicotine.16 17
  • A third of the patients need breathing machines to keep them alive.18
  • Two-thirds are between 18-34 years old.19
  • Most are men.20

For an updated weekly report on California-specific outbreak information, visit California Department of Public Health and download the VAPI Weekly Update Report.

People with lung damage from vaping typically have symptoms that start a few days to a few weeks before they go see a doctor.21 All people hospitalized developed some type of breathing problems, but many people also have other symptoms. The symptoms reported by those affected are:

  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever, or unexplained weight loss

If you vape and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see a doctor. Keep in mind, you don’t have to be a long-time user in order to develop the lung illness. New users have been affected as well. 22 23

Need help quitting? Call 1-844-8-NO-VAPE or CHAT NOW. For additional resources go to NoButts.org.

Refraining from vaping is strongly recommended until the investigation is complete. For those who choose to vape THC, products should only be purchased from a licensed cannabis retailer. Never buy any type of e-cigarette or vaping product off the street, particularly those that contain THC. Consumers should never modify a store-bought vape product.

Officials are concerned about whether the vaping illness increases the risk of influenza or other respiratory viral infections during or following treatment. CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, including people who use e-cigarette, or vaping products. 24

Get more outbreak information from the CDC.

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