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Mass. Reports 10 New Likely Cases Of Vaping Illness To CDC

Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. (Sam Doran/State House News Service)
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. (Sam Doran/State House News Service)

State officials on Wednesday reported 10 new likely cases of vaping-associated pulmonary injury.

The Department of Public Health announced that it has now reported a total of 29 cases — 10 confirmed and 19 probable — to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In those cases, state officials provided the CDC with evidence gathered from patient interviews and medical record reviews.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel told reporters at the State House Wednesday that the stream of new cases is steady, and the cause is unknown.

According to the DPH, it has so far received 152 reports of suspected vaping-related lung injuries. Of those, 29 cases were reported to the CDC, 63 cases are under investigation and 60 have been ruled out, the agency said. The agency has reported one death, a woman in her 60s from Hampshire County.

"Just like at the national level, there's no one thing," Bharel said. "We all want to find the silver bullet of what is causing this, but unfortunately, some used just nicotine, many used just THC, many used a combination of both."

DPH said 20 of the 29 patients reported to the CDC said they had vaped tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an ingredient found in marijuana, with or without nicotine. Of those 20 cases, 13 reported using THC only, seven reported THC and nicotine, and eight reported vaping nicotine only.

Bharel added the state hopes to learn how many of the cases involve vaping products bought at stores versus the number purchased on the black market. She said that, of the 29 cases, 25 required hospitalization, the gender split is about half male and half female, and nine cases were under the age of 20.

Gov. Charlie Baker, announcing a public health emergency, on Sept. 25 imposed a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products and industry officials are working in federal court to have the ban overturned.

"The ban allows us a pause so that we can do these investigations and further our understanding and put in regulatory framework to protect all of us and especially our youth," Bharel said. "It gives us time to do these investigations and to have the reporting like the numbers I shared with you today and our team is working tirelessly to work as quickly as we can."

With additional reporting from WBUR's Jonathan Cain

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