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5 People In Maryland Have Severe Lung Illnesses After Using E-Cigarettes, Health Department Says

Five people in Maryland have developed severe lung illnesses in the last two months after using e-cigarettes and “vaping”.

The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy identified the patients and said that respiratory symptoms reported by patients included shortness of breath, pain associated with breathing or coughing.

They also reported fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The cases displayed no clear infectious cause and all of the patients had to be hospitalized.

None of the cases have been fatal, the department of health added.

These cases are part of the nearly 200 reported incidents of vaping-related illness in 22 states- resulting in at least one death.

“The Maryland Department of Health is taking this issue seriously and is working with local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to identify anyone who may be experiencing similar symptoms,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Frances B. Phillips.

The official cause of these illnesses is not yet known and hasn’t been linked to any particular device, substance or brand.

People who became ill reported using a variety of vaping products, including those containing marijuana and THC and those with nicotine.

“This is a serious and potentially life-threating illness,” said Bruce Anderson, Executive Director of the Maryland Poison Center. “If you have used e-cigarettes or vaped in the past weeks or months, and you start to have trouble breathing, stop using these products and seek immediate medical attention.”

MDH added that many vaping products contain substances that can be toxic when inhaled and might not be listed on product packaging.

“There is so much we don’t know about the contents of these products. The best way to keep yourself safe is to not use e-cigarettes or vapes,” said Dawn Berkowitz, Director for the MDH Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control. “We know quitting is hard, but there are resources available to help. Trained professionals are available 24/7 to help you stop vaping or smoking.”

MDH encouraged medical providers caring for patients with unexplained serious respiratory illnesses to ask about a history of recent e-cigarette use or vaping and to report suspected cases to their local health department.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating about 200 possible cases of severe lung damage that may be connected to e-cigarettes.

In an interview with CBS News, the CEO of Juul — the country’s most popular e-cigarette brand — said that there isn’t enough evidence to pull the products from stores.

“If there was any indication that there was an adverse health condition related to our product, I think we’d take very swift action associated with it,” Juul CEO Kevin Burns said.

One woman told WJZ that she’s casually tried vaping before.

“I just tried it twice,” Monique Williams, of Baltimore, said. “I think they maybe need to stop letting people buy it if it’s becoming that serious of an issue.”

The Health Department is not interviewing all five patients to see exactly what vaping product they used, and how often they used it.

Ava-Joye Burnett/CBS Baltimore