Vaping illnesses hit 530 as FDA reveals criminal investigation

A person vaping

Many people who have gotten sick reported vaping THC, some said they used nicotine and others reported using both. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The number of vaping-related illnesses has climbed to 530 and seven deaths across 38 states and one territory as federal and state health officials continue searching for the cause of the outbreak, the CDC said today.

The tally jumped dramatically from last week, when the agency reported 380 cases in 36 states and the Virgin Islands — a 40 percent increase. CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told reporters she is “very concerned” and officials are “working around the clock” to pinpoint what is making people sick. According to the CDC, the majority of cases involve men and more than half are patients under 25 years old.

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The FDA has been pursuing a criminal investigation since shortly after the illnesses emerged, officials said.

Many people who have gotten sick reported vaping THC, some said they used nicotine and others reported using both. No one specific product or substance has been identified in all cases.

“This is a complex investigation. It spans many states, involves hundreds of cases and a wide variety of substances and products,” Schuchat said. Consumers concerned about their health should consider not using e-cigarette products, she said, and warned against buying any off the street or modifying them in any way.

FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations is looking at the supply chain, said Mitch Zeller, director of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products, but he would not provide further details about the “parallel investigative efforts.”

The CDC also activated its Emergency Operations Center this week.