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5 North Carolinians were hospitalized for an illness from vaping: Here’s what they had in common

Published: Sep. 14, 2019 at 6:10 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The CDC issued a report this week on five North Carolina cases they say highlight the need to spread awareness of a potential association between use of marijuana oils in e-cigarettes and lipoid pneumonia.

Though e-cigs are commonly used to deliver nicotine and flavorings, they can also be used to deliver marijuana.

In recent months, more than 200 possible cases of acute lung injuries potentially associated with vaping were reported from 25 different states.

In July and August of 2019, five patients were identified at two hospitals in North Carolina with the same illness, possibly due to e-cig use.

Patients were between 18 and 35 years old and all experienced several days of worsening shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and fever before they went to the hospital, according to the CDC report.

All five patients shared a history of recent use of marijuana oils in e-cigarettes. The patients used electronic vaping pens that had refillable chambers or interchangeable cartridges containing THC vaping concentrates, which they purchased on the street.

Three of the patients also used e-cigarettes with nicotine, and two of the patients say they smoked marijuana or conventional cigarettes, although none reportedly used other illicit drugs.

All five patients were hospitalized for hypoxemic respiratory failure; three required intensive care for acute respiratory distress syndrome, one of which had to be put on a ventilator.

After days of tests, all five were diagnosed with acute exogenous lipoid pneumonia.

Luckily, all of the patients survived.

One potential explanation offered by the doctors is that the oils inhaled from e-cigarettes deposited within their distal airways and alveoli, inciting an inflammatory response that impaired vital gas exchange.

This isn’t the first time lipoid pneumonia has been associated with e-cigarette use. According to the CDC, symptoms of lipoid pneumonia are often nonspecific and can lead to missed diagnoses. Doctors are still working out the best treatment and are still unsure the long-term effects of the sickness.

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