The Missouri man is the state’s first death related to an outbreak of lung disease linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping-related devices, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said. Eight vaping-related deaths have been recorded in the U.S.
The man, whose name was not released, had normal lung function before he started using e-cigarettes in May. He developed respiratory problems and was hospitalized Aug. 22 before being transferred on Sept. 4 to Mercy St. Louis, where he died this week, the health department said in a news release. Lung samples taken from the patient determined the death was related to vaping.
“We are sad to report that this illness associated with vaping has now resulted in a death in Missouri and extend our condolences to his family,” Dr. Randall Williams, health department director, said in the release. “As previously stated, we encourage Missourians to follow the CDC guidance to refrain from using e-cigarette products if you are concerned about these specific health risks, especially while the investigation is ongoing.”
The health department said since it began requiring physicians to report possible vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses in late August, it has received 22 reports. Seven of the cases, including the first death, have been confirmed and nine are still being investigated. Six other cases did not meet definitions provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said Thursday 530 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory, up from 380 a week ago.
The Missouri man began vaping because of chronic pain issues, said Dr. Michael Plisco, a critical care pulmonologist and medical director of Mercy St. Louis’ extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program. He developed shortness of breath that deteriorated and developed into acute respiratory distress syndrome. He was placed on a machine called venoarterial ECMO to support his heart and rest his lungs.
He told his family members that he was vaping, but they didn’t know the details of what he was using, Plisco said.
“Unfortunately, at the time he started, he didn’t know the dangers of vaping, so he continued to use the instrument that was potentially causing his shortness of breath and other problems,” Plisco said.
Plisco said doctors hoped putting the man on the machine on Sept. 5 would allow his lungs to heal, but he continued to get worse. After 13 days, “his body proved it couldn’t recover” and he was removed from the machine, Plisco added.
The man died shortly after midnight Wednesday.