Mysterious lung illness can emerge with just one vape, says doctor

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More than 200 people are sick, and one person has died from a mysterious lung illness tied to vaping. Public health officials are now warning people not to use e-cigarettes, especially if they’re young.

Dr. John Kreit, Pulmonary Division chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has seen four patients (people in their teens and 20s) with this disease since four weeks ago. 

He says shortness of breath is what brings patients to the hospital, but other symptoms have occurred too, including high fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

"My feeling is that this is going to turn out to be some contaminant related to the materials that are being vaped, because these are bought on the internet for the most part. And the people buying them have no idea what's in them. And I suspect the manufacturers have no idea what's in them in terms of toxins, pesticides, things like that," he says. 

Dr. Kriet emphasizes that this is likely a direct toxin, not an allergic reaction "because it happens so quickly, and it can happen with just one exposure." He says the last patient he saw with the condition had vaped one time several days before he got sick. 

Dr. Kreit says all his patients have recovered, but the degree of illness varies tremendously. "Some people have a little bit of shortness of breath, they don't require any supplemental oxygen, they get better in a couple days, they're fine. And then others are so sick that they require a mechanical ventilator to keep them alive, and almost die from this. And I've seen both extremes in the four patients that I've treated."

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