Eight in ten of the e-cigarette users who have developed severe vaping-related illnesses reported using THC-containing products, it has been disclosed.
US health officials believe that black market vapes could be behind the outbreak that has sickened 805 Americans since last summer.
But investigators say that they’re unsure if THC – the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana – is the problem or some other substance added to the vaping liquid, such as thickeners.
’The outbreak currently is pointing to a greater concern around THC-containing products,' Dr Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
CDC revealed that 77 per cent of the e-cigarette users who developed vaping-related illnesses used THC-containing products.
Most of the 805 people who’ve developed severe vaping-related illnesses fell ill reported vaping THC, the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, the CDC said on Friday. Pictured: Cannabis-containing vaping products that contained high levels of vitamin E acetate, which is linked to the vaping-associated illnesses
So far, investigators have not identified a particular e-cigarette, vaping device, liquid or ingredient behind the outbreak.
But officials say patients have mentioned the name Dank Vapes, a counterfeit brand, most frequently.
Many of the people who got sick in Illinois and Wisconsin said they used pre-filled THC cartridges sold in Dank Vapes packaging.
’It’s a generic product name that doesn’t really tie back to one store or one distributor,' said Dr Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health during the media call.
’Folks are getting it from friends or folks on the street, with no understanding of where it came from prior to that.'
Until a cause is pinned down, the CDC continues to advise Americans to consider avoiding all vaping products, though the agency on Friday added the phrase 'particularly those containing THC.'
’We didn’t feel comfortable dropping the broader recommendation yet,' said Dr Schuchat.
Last week, the CDC reported 805 confirmed and probable cases of lung illnesses.
Thirteen people have died. Only the US has reported such an outbreak, although Canadian officials confirmed that country’s first case last week.
On Friday, the agency provided more details in two reports.
- The first case in the US began in late March. Cases ramped up in late June and rose dramatically in late July
- The media age for the illnesses is 23. But the median age of those who died is much older: 50
- Nationally, nine in 10 cases required hospitalization. Many young and previously healthy adolescents and young adults needed machines to help them breathe
- The most illnesses have occurred in California, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin
- In Illinois and Wisconsin, patients mentioned 87 different product names and many vaped more than one
Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
Officials continue to find a substantial numbers of US patients – the new report says 16 percent – who said they vaped only nicotine, and not THC.
But the report noted that, in Wisconsin, five patients who initially denied using products with THC turned out to have used them.
In Wisconsin and Illinois, recreational marijuana use is currently illegal.
Since 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has lightly regulated the manufacture and ingredients used in nicotine-based e-cigarettes.
But there is no FDA review of THC products, which are illegal under federal law.
The outbreak of illnesses and a surge in underage use of e-cigarettes has brought demands for tighter regulation from politicians, public health officials and parents.