The Mysterious Vaping-Related Illness Has Been Reported in Five More People

The CDC is still recommending that people avoid using vaping products.

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Charlie Baker may have banned vaping products—but it seems that the mysterious lung disease that prompted the measure isn’t going away anytime soon.

Massachusetts doctors have found two more confirmed and three probable cases of the unexplained lung illness, doubling the statewide total. Since September 11, doctors in the state have been required to report unexplained vaping-related lung illnesses, and 83 suspected cases have been reported, at the average rate of 5-10 cases a day. Nationwide, there are now 805 cases of the disease, spanning 46 states. 12 deaths have been confirmed.

The majority of the patients suffering from the lung disease are 18-34 year old men. They reported respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain, gastrointestinal distress issues such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, and fatigue, fever, or abdominal pain. Some patients said their symptoms developed over the course of days, while others experienced a slower onset.

All the cases are linked to a history of vaping, but the investigation into the illness has not yet solved the mystery of what specific vaping products are fueling the outbreak. Investigators in Illinois and Wisconsin, who have interviewed 86 patients afflicted with the disease, have started to put some pieces together, however. 66 percent of the patients interviewed had vaped cartridges labeled as “Dank Vapes,” acquired primarily from sources like friends or dealers. It is not clear who manufactures Dank Vapes, but a report from the CDC says that the label “appears to be the most prominent in a class of largely counterfeit brands,” used by distributers to sell THC cartridges “with no obvious centralized production or distribution.”

While this discovery has prompted investigators to renew their focus on the role of THC in these lung diseases, authorities still aren’t conclusively saying that the illnesses are caused by one particular brand or ingredient. The 86 patients interviewed alone reported using 234 different vaping products, both nicotine and THC. The CDC is therefore still recommending that users refrain from all vaping products, though they have updated their advisory to focus specifically on THC.

“CDC recommends people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC,” Anne Schuchat, a CDC representative, said during a briefing Friday.

In the meantime, though, local vape shops are getting impatient. Three shops—Mass Dynamics in Weymouth, Boston Vapor in Salem, NH, and Vick’s Vape Shop in Medford—have filed a federal complaint alleging that Baker’s vape ban is both illegal and will cause them irreparable harm.

“This is a life or death matter,” Craig Rourke, the attorney representing the shops, told BostonIf the ban goes on unchecked for four months, he said, these businesses will be unable to pay their rent or their workers, forcing them to go out of business.

In the face of the lawsuit, however, Baker stands firm.

“If people choose to pursue the courts, that’s an available option to them, but we believe we’re doing the right thing,” he said.