6 Potential Cases of Vaping-Related Lung Illness Reported in Bay Area

A man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette.  (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

At least six of the 62 potential cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping products in California are located in the Bay Area, according to county health officials in the region.

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday said it has identified 62 potential cases since late June of acute lung disease in people with a recent history of vaping. Some cases involve people who vaped using unlicensed or unregulated cannabis products.

Four of those cases are in Alameda County, according to Neetu Balram, a spokesperson for the county's Public Health Department.

Balram said the first two cases under investigation went to the hospital in late July, and health officials learned of them in August. The most recent case came to the county's attention last week, Balram said.

While health officials wouldn’t discuss the specifics of individual cases, most involved teenagers or young people and the use of some form of cannabis, according to Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County interim health officer.

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“My understanding of the ones we’ve had so far — and what we’re seeing in the state — is that most of them have been related to some sort of cannabinoid or THC,” she said.

The other two potential cases in the region are located in Contra Costa and Solano counties, though a spokesman for Contra Costa County Health Services’ Public Health division noted that the case has not yet been confirmed.

The other six Bay Area counties — San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara — have not yet reported any cases, but health officials are still urging caution as the number of potential vaping-related illnesses surges nationally and across the state.

"Until we know what’s causing this, the only way to be sure we’re protected is to avoid using e-cigarettes," said Marin Health and Human Services Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis in a statement. "It’s just not safe to vape."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported 450 cases nationally in 33 states and one U.S. territory since July. Most, but not all cases, have been associated with e-cigarette products containing cannabis. The CDC has not yet identified the substance within vaping products that may be causing acute lung injury.

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Los Angeles County health officials announced Friday the first death in California associated with vaping. The death is still under investigation. The CDC reported five deaths as of Friday.

The revelations come as the number of teenagers and young people using vaping products is surging nationally and health authorities are working to crack down on companies that sell e-cigarette products.

In a strongly worded letter Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration blasted San Francisco-based vaping company Juul for illegally pitching its products as a safer alternative to smoking and ordered the company to stop making unproved claims.

A spokesman for Juul said the company will "fully cooperate" with federal health authorities.

KQED's Ted Goldberg contributed reporting to this post.

This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.

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