(WRIC) — Since the end of June, there have been nearly 200 possible cases of severe respiratory illness across the country that health officials believe could be linked to e-cigarette product use, vaping or dabbing. According to the Virginia Department of Health, three cases have been confirmed in the commonwealth.
As of Aug. 22, 2019, 94 possible cases have been reported in at least 14 states. The health department said all patients reported vaping prior to feeling ill.
Some symptoms include “gradual onset of cough, shortness of breath, or fatigue,” the VDH said. A few patients also reported gastrointestinal illness — including vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue — across the country.
While patients did not improve with antibiotics or have clinical indications of an infection, several “have responded positively to steroid therapies,” according to the VDH.
Health officials said they believe people who vape are mixing marijuana into their device, causing the serious epidemic.
E-cigarettes have been described as less dangerous compared to regular cigarettes, health officials said. But the concern is kids who vape nicotine at a young age.
Ruddy Rose, director of the Virginia Poison Control told 8News it is evident that young people who vape are more likely to try marijuana.
A number of people who got sick are adding ingredients to their device, vaping both nicotine and marijuana, Dr. Rose said.
“Beware of black market products, beware of do-it-yourself products, don’t put chemicals in these things that weren’t intended to be in them, Dr. Rose said.
As the epidemic continues to rise, so do the questions surrounding it.
Experts said they aren’t any studies that show the types of chemicals vaping creates and what damage it can have on the lungs. Therefore, the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown.
Two of three confirmed cases in Virginia have come from the northern region of the state and the other case was reported in the southwest region.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.