Minnesota health officials on Friday confirmed the first vaping-related death in the state, bringing the total number of such deaths nationwide to four.
Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the patient, who was over 65 years old and died in August, was hospitalized with a severe lung injury that was associated with vaping products containing illicit THC, a compound found in marijuana.
“Our sympathies go out to the family of the person who died,” Gov. Tim Walz (D) said in a statement. “This tragedy and the serious injuries suffered by others show the stakes of this outbreak. Health officials are working hard to determine a cause and share information to prevent additional injuries.”
“One death from this outbreak is one death too many,” added Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We are working with our partners around the state and the nation to find out everything we can as quickly as we can to prevent additional illnesses and deaths.”
The state’s Department of Health said it currently has 17 confirmed or classified cases as well as 15 potential cases with lung injuries. Of those who have been interviewed, all reported vaping illicit THC products, while many also said they vaped other products, including those that contain nicotine.
Indiana, Oregon and Illinois have each also reported one vaping-related death thus far.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday it is investigating 450 possible cases of lung disease linked to vaping, more than double the number of cases from last week.
While it is currently unclear what is directly causing the illnesses, many cases involve vaping products containing THC, while some others include those using nicotine, officials said.
“While the investigation is ongoing, the CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing lung disease,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, an incident manager with the CDC.