US health officials said that there may be more than one cause behind the nationwide outbreak of serious lung illnesses linked to vaping, and that they have not yet seen a meaningful drop in new cases.
Investigators have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as being especially risky, but have not yet tied the cases to any specific product or compound.
In a conference call with reporters, health officials said more than one agent may be involved in the mysterious illness that has sickened more than 1,000 people in the United States.
“I think there will be multiple causes and potentially more than one root cause,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on the call.
The source of the illness in one part of the country may not be the same as in another part of the country, she said.
On Tuesday, the CDC reported 1,299 confirmed or probable cases of lung injuries linked to vaping in the United States, with 26 deaths, including one victim under the age of 18. About 80% of patients were under age 35.
The CDC issued updated guidance for doctors, urging them to be especially watchful of patients who may have both a vaping lung injury and an unrelated respiratory infection.
The CDC had previously advised doctors to rule out infections before considering vaping injuries, but that was during the summer months, when there are fewer cases of respiratory infections such as flu.
“It may be more complicated to understand now that we expect to see a higher degree of respiratory infections,” Schuchat said. The CDC is now advising doctors to devise treatments that would address both conditions.