SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County health and Human Services on Friday announced 11 people have been treated for severe lung issues related to vaping.
The median age of those being treated is 38 years old with a range from 17 to 70 years old. All 11 were hospitalized, however there were no deaths.
The cases first surfaced June 1.
"This is almost becoming a public health crisis, and they have to step in and take action," said UC San Diego public health professor, Wael Al-Delaimy.
Professor Al-Delaimy has been studying the effects and the risks of electronic cigarettes since they became promoted as a way to quit smoking.
"Yes, it could potentially help some, but it could cause harm to many others.
U.S. health officials said that they're now investigating more than 450 cases of possible vaping-related illnesses in 33 states nationwide.
Also Friday, health authorities announced they are investigating Los Angeles County's first known death associated with vaping a marijuana product, and 10 other cases of lung injury have been reported that are potentially linked to the use of cannabis vapes.
The disclosure came on the same day that U.S. health officials renewed calls for people to avoid vaping until they figure out why some users are suffering serious breathing illnesses. Officials have identified about 450 possible cases, including as many as five deaths, in 33 states.
In California, health officials have identified 57 potential cases of acute lung disease among people with a recent history of vaping, beginning in late June. Some of cases involve people who vaped cannabis products purchased from unlicensed sources, though the agency has not provided a specific number.
In Los Angeles County, officials did not disclose the name of the deceased patient, who was described as an older adult, at least 55 years old, with chronic health conditions who was vaping a product containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.
"Vaping was a probable, potential cause of death in this person," said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county's health officer.
Overall, the county has received 12 reports of hospitalizations for pulmonary injuries related to vaping, all but one of those involving marijuana products.
For now, county health investigators have a puzzle.
No specific device, brand or ingredient has been implicated in the health problems. The known cases cut across all age groups, and people in varying health conditions. The cases are not concentrated in a specific area within the county, the nation's most populous. It's not clear if the problems are linked to a chemical irritation, an allergic reaction or something else.
There are "a lot of unknowns," Davis told reporters at the county Department of Public Health.
The county began receiving the reports of illnesses in mid-August. In some cases, smokers were using cannabis products as well as nicotine vapes.
"What liquid was used, was substances were used, what devices were used, it's all under investigation," Davis said.
The CDC is also looking into whether a certain chemical, an oil derived from vitamin E, is involved. However, there is no definite cause for the lung illnesses. The agency, for now, is urging users to stop until an investigation is complete.