By Georgia Geen

Capital News Service

One person has died in Virginia from a lung injury associated with vaping, as the number of illnesses linked to e-cigarette use increases in the state and across the country, the Virginia Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The death was reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Thursday, and the Department of Health said the patient was an adult residing in Southwest Virginia. Citing patient privacy, the department did not release additional details.

“I am deeply saddened to announce the first death of a Virginia resident related to this outbreak,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver. “Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.”

As of Monday, there have been 31 lung injury cases, including the patient who died, in Virginia. The cases include 15 in Northern Virginia, seven in Eastern Virginia, five in Northwest Virginia, three in Southwest Virginia and one in Central Virginia.

The number of cases has grown since Sept. 20, when the Department of Health had confirmed 16 cases of lung illnesses linked to vaping and seven suspected cases.

Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that there have been 805 cases across 46 states and one U.S. territory. The CDC said there had been 12 deaths; that number did not include the one in Virginia.

While the cause of the outbreak is still unknown, officials have flagged the vitamin E found in many tested samples containing THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive compound. The Virginia Department of Health advises people not to use e-cigarettes, and those who do should not buy products off the street or modify them in a way not intended by the manufacturer.

Health officials recommend e-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.  In addition to other potentially harmful chemicals, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development. People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop.