As U.S. health officials look into what might be causing hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to aid the investigations.
“CDC has made it a priority to find out what is causing this outbreak of e-cigarette- or vaping-related injuries and deaths,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. “Activation of CDC’s Emergency Operations Center allows us to enhance operations and provide additional support to CDC staff working to protect our nation from this serious health threat.”
Reuters reported that the Emergency Operations Center offers a central command post where teams of trained experts, including staff of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), track public health emergencies, share information and coordinate the responses.
Authorities have identified 380 confirmed and probable cases in 36 states and one territory, including six deaths.
Researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, such as formaldehyde. However, it’s not yet clear whether those chemicals are present in high-enough amounts to cause harm.
E-cigarette vapor contains tiny particles that carry flavorings. Some early-stage laboratory and animal studies suggest these flavor particles can damage the lungs, airways and blood vessels, but more research is needed to better understand how human bodies react to them.
Last week the White House said federal regulators will develop guidelines to remove from the market all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco.
The ban is aimed at the growing popularity of flavored nicotine vape formulas among teens. Health officials said Wednesday that preliminary data shows more than one in four high school students reported vaping this year, compared with one in five in 2018.
Health officials are urging people to stop vaping and get medical care if they have trouble breathing or experience chest pain.