A third person has died from a severe lung illness linked to the use of a vaping device. The death was confirmed on Friday by the state of Indiana, which said that an “individual over the age of 18” had died, but provided no additional information about the patient or case, citing privacy laws.
Two other people — one in Illinois, the other in Oregon, both of whom were adults — have died from what appears to be the same type of illness, health officials in those states have said. State and federal health officials are scrambling to find a cause, possibly a particular chemical or adulterant contained in some vaping products. To date, more than 200 cases of the mysterious illness have been reported in 25 states.
A news release issued by the Indiana Department of Health said that the state is investigating 30 cases in which people have become sickened after vaping; the majority of patients are between the ages of 16 and 29. The syndrome has afflicted otherwise healthy people.
What looked like a few scattered cases in mid-June has become a full-fledged and widespread public health scare, leaving people ill in roughly two dozen states, some so severely that they have been placed on ventilators. Those afflicted typically wind up in emergency rooms with shortness of breath after several days of flulike symptoms, including high fever.
The state of New York, where 34 people have taken ill, said on Thursday that vaping samples from eight of its cases showed high levels of a compound called vitamin E acetate. Investigators there are focusing on the possibility that the oily substance might be playing a key role in the illness.
However, some of the more than 100 vaping samples being tested by the federal government did not prove positive for vitamin E acetate, so that compound remains only one of many possible causes of the heavy lung inflammation.