HCN News & Notes

DPH Reports First Death in Massachusetts from Vaping-associated Lung Disease

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reported the state’s first death from a vaping-associated lung injury, a woman in her 60s from Hampshire County, to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She was among the 121 suspected cases that have been reported to DPH since Sept. 11, when Massachusetts began mandating that clinicians immediately report any unexplained vaping-associated lung injury to the department.

Of the 121 suspected reports, nine cases have been confirmed, and 10 are probable for meeting the CDC’s definition of vaping-associated lung injury, nearly double the number of cases DPH reported a week ago to the CDC. At least 39 reports are for patients who have been ruled out as having vaping-associated lung injury.

With the number of suspect cases rising statewide and nationally, on Sept. 24, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a public-health emergency and a four-month, statewide ban on sales of all vaping products in Massachusetts. The sales ban applies to all vaping devices and products, including tobacco and marijuana.

“The number of confirmed and probable cases of vaping-associated lung injury we’re seeing continues to escalate, and today I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of a patient who had this illness,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “We are investigating these cases as quickly as possible and working with our federal partners to better understand this outbreak.”

DPH issued a clinical advisory on Sept. 11 asking providers to report any case of a person experiencing unexplained, progressive symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough, or weight loss, of any severity, and an abnormal chest imaging study associated with vaping. The suspected cases are to be reported to DPH via a form and sent to a confidential fax line.

As of Oct. 1, a total of 1,080 lung-injury cases associated with using e-cigarette or vaping products have been reported to the CDC from 48 states and one U.S. territory. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states, not including the Massachusetts death. All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products. No single product has been linked to all cases of vaping-related lung injury.