A man uses a vape while walking on Broadway in New York City, USA, September 9, 2019.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
The number of fatalities continues to rise as a deadly weapon disease sweeps across the country, killing 33 and making 1,479 people sick so far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
The new cases – up from 26 deaths and 1
"This is extremely complicated and difficult. It is fatal or potentially fatal with half of the cases requiring intensive treatment," CDC Chief Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told lawmakers in the House at a hearing Wednesday.
Almost all patients who become ill end up in hospitals, the CDC has previously said. An overwhelming number of victims are young men. Among the 1,358 patients in whom CDC has age and gender data, 79% are under the age of 35 with a median age of 23. Some 70% of the victims are men and the youngest is 13 years.
The CDC is currently calling the disease EVALI, an abbreviation for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated with lung injury. Most patients have reported vaping THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, although health professionals have not yet identified what exactly in the vaping products makes people sick.
Of the 849 patients, the CDC has data on what they vaped, 78% said they used THC with or without nicotine. About 10% of patients reported using only nicotine e-cigarettes.
The study is incredibly complex as it relies most on interviewing patients and testing products. Paper recordings and fax machines have slowed down federal government efforts, Schuchat testified during the hearing. The agency is now
Doctors encourage anyone who is suspected to talk to health care professionals, especially if they experience symptoms of the disease, such as difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting. Knowing if a patient is vaping and what they are using is crucial to making an accurate diagnosis.
The CDC warned physicians that people who develop EVALI may be at risk of developing serious complications of influenza or other respiratory diseases that circulate in the winter.  "It's going to be a very challenging winter," Schuchat said during the hearing.
Schuchat said that the CDC expects the outbreak to continue to spread, with new cases being reported every day.