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Vaping-related illnesses jump to 805 nationwide; deaths rise to 12

Vaping-related death toll rises

Hundreds more Americans have been reported to have a vaping-related breathing illness, and the death toll has risen to 12, health officials said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 805 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, up 52% from the 530 reported a week ago. At this point, illnesses have occurred in almost every state.

The confirmed deaths include two in California, two in Kansas, and one each in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Oregon. The Mississippi death was announced by officials in that state Thursday.

"Any death related to vaping is one too many, and this is entirely preventable," Dr. Paul Byers, an epidemiologist with the state's department of health, said in a statement. "We grieve with the family over this loss, and our hopes are that this helps emphasize how serious the dangers of vaping can be."

Over the summer, health officials in a few states began noticing reports of people developing severe breathing illnesses, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. The only common factor in the illnesses was that the patients had all recently vaped.

As a national investigation started and broadened, reports have increased dramatically.

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It's not clear how many of the 275 added cases occurred in the last week, and how many are being logged long after they happened. The CDC has not released details on when symptoms began in each case.

The agency's count includes only illnesses that have met certain criteria. Other illnesses are also being investigated.

What's causing the illnesses?

It's not completely known. No single vaping product or ingredient has been linked to them, and health officials haven't released a national breakdown of what product each sick person vaped.

Among 53 of the earliest cases in Illinois and Wisconsin, the vast majority of patients said they had vaped products containing THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. Nearly one-fifth said they had only vaped nicotine products.

The investigation does seem to be largely focused on products containing THC, with some attention on ingredients added to marijuana oil.

Anecdotally, a common thread has been products purchased on the street, not at dispensaries in states with legal pot sales. There is one puzzling outlier: A death in Oregon linked to a product bought at a legal cannabis retailer.

Another consideration: Juul and other brands of nicotine e-cigarettes have been around for years, but the illnesses surfaced only recently.

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