Missouri man becomes 8th person in the US to die from vaping-related illness

In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

ST. LOUIS (KSDK ) — A Missouri man is the eighth person in the United States to die due to an illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, a man in his mid-40s died this week at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. The man has not been identified.

This is the first vaping related death in Missouri.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said it concluded the man’s death was a vaping-related lung injury after lung samples were taken. He had a history of vaping but normal lung function prior to starting vaping in May 2019.

The press release from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the man developed mild respiratory symptoms that worsened, leading to hospitalization on Aug. 22 before being transferred to Mercy in St. Louis on Sept. 4.

“This is an unfortunate case of a young man with no prior lung illness who started vaping because of chronic pain issues,” said Dr. Michael Plisco, Mercy critical care pulmonologist and medical director of Mercy’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program. “He started out with shortness of breath and it rapidly progressed and deteriorated, developing into what is called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Once the lungs are injured by vaping, we don’t know how quickly it worsens and if it depends on other risk factors.”

There have been 22 reports of vaping-related illnesses in Missouri.

“We are sad to report that this illness associated with vaping has now resulted in a death in Missouri and extend our condolences to his family,” said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS director. “As previously stated, we encourage Missourians to follow the CDC guidance to refrain from using e-cigarette products if you are concerned about these specific health risks, especially while the investigation is ongoing.”

No infectious diseases have been identified with the illness, meaning it doesn’t spread from person to person. These lung illnesses are likely associated with a chemical exposure from vaping. Patients report e-cigarette use and similar symptoms including:

● Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain.
● Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
● Fatigue, fever, or weight loss.
● Elevated heart rate.

Just over 27% of high school students in the United States reported using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, which is up more than 7% since 2018. Some studies show 7-10% of middle schoolers use the products.

Minors, pregnant women, anyone with heart or lung disease, and any adult who does not currently use tobacco products should not use e-cigarettes. For those adults who currently use traditional tobacco and want to use e-cigarettes to cut down or quit, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.

Medical professionals would encourage everyone to avoid vaping products during the investigations into the current epidemic of illness, and never to use products purchased on the street or modified from their original form. The best advice is to avoid these products entirely to protect ourselves from potentially severe illness or long-term health outcomes.