By Georgia Geen

Capital News Service

The number of confirmed cases of severe vaping-related lung illness in Virginia has increased to 16, in addition to seven suspected cases, the Virginia Department of Health announced Friday.

Seventeen of the 23 patients were male, and all were between the ages of 18 and 38. According to 2017 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6% of men and 4% of women in Virginia used e-cigarettes.

The state Health Department recommended “that people consider not using any e-cigarette products” as investigations into the exact cause of the lung illness continue. The agency said it expects the number of cases to rise.

Nationwide, the CDC has reported 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung illness associated with vaping. The CDC has confirmed seven deaths — in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon.

As in Virginia, about three-fourths of those afflicted nationwide have been male.

Officials have noted the presence of vitamin E acetate as a commonality among many samples tested containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

The Health Department said that people who continue to use e-cigarettes should not modify the products, buy products off the street or add any substances not intended by manufacturers. E-cigarette users also should watch for these symptoms: Coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, fever, abdominal pain, chest pain, vomiting.

“Promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop,” the Health Department said. More information about vaping is available  at       www.vdh.virginia.gov/vdhlivewell/vaping/