SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KMOX) — A fourth death now in Illinois tied to vaping prompts local doctors to renew their call for people not to use e-cigarettes. And in Missouri, the second death in the state due to vaping illness. The Illinois Department of Public Health says this latest death is in a resident who had recently been hospitalized with a lung injury associated with the use of an e-cigarette or a vaping product. No other details are being given about this latest victim.
The Missouri Department of Health says a woman in her mid-50s.
"I would suggest anybody who is still smoking electronic cigarettes to quit smoking till we know more," said Dr. Mohsin Ehsan, a pulmonologist with the SSM Health Medical Group in St. Charles County. "I certainly tell people to avoid using e-cigarettes."
Nationwide -- 42 deaths now in 24 states -- including two in Missouri. At this time, a total of 179 people in Illinois -- ranging in age from 13 to 75 years old -- with a median age of 22 -- have experienced lung injuries after vaping. 41 more cases are under investigation in Illinois.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says Vitamin E Acetate -- a substance used to thicken vaping products -- is one of the main toxins fueling the crisis.
"Vitamin E is a part of some skin products so it can be safely used on the skin," Dr. Ehsan tells KMOX. "Vitamin E can be swallowed as a pill as a supplement. But certainly not in the lung where it induces such a significant inflammatory response and tends to stay in there for a long time. It is extremely sticky and causes a reaction so severe that people are ending up in an ICU requiring a ventilator and now we know people have undergone transplant as well."
Doctors at a Detroit hospital on October 15th performed what they believe is the first double lung transplant in the world for a patient whose lungs were irreparably damaged by vaping. Without the transplant, his medical team says the patient would have died within days. The 16-year-old patient has asked his doctors to share photographs of the damage done to his lungs and warn others about the dangers of vaping. The patient is making a good recovery and has begun physical therapy but Dr. Victor Coba, part of the transplant team at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, says it will be a long road ahead.
In addition to the 42 deaths nationwide, there have been more than 2100 vaping related lung injuries in the United States -- with patients reported in every state but Alaska.