GALVESTON, Texas – The first death related to vaping in Galveston County was confirmed by health officials Monday.
According to officials at the Galveston County Health District, the 30- to 35-year-old woman died Dec. 29 while being treated for a lung injury related to e-cigarettes. The woman’s identity was not released, but officials said she was a resident of Galveston.
Dr. Philip Keiser, the county’s health authority, said investigators believe THC, the psychotropic compound found in marijuana, was involved in this case. However, he said it’s less about the THC and more about the molecule used to make any vaping product smokable.
"It gets into the lung, is able to cross the lung membrane and when it crosses the lung membrane, it gets in between that space where we breath and the blood then transfers, when that happens you basically get fat deposited along there. It’s not a good time to be vaping in the United States,” Keiser said.
The Galveston woman’s death is the second vaping-related death in Texas, Keiser said. He said more than 200 cases of vaping-related illness have been reported statewide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said one indication of the illness is an X-ray that looks similar to someone suffering from pneumonia, but there is no reason for that person to have pneumonia, according to Keiser.
“People with heart disease. People with diabetes. People with lung disease already are actually more likely to suffer severe consequences,” Keiser said.
Keiser said symptoms include coughing and difficulty breathing. He said it is extremely critical to catch the illness quickly. The recovery, in many cases, is often long and difficult.
“This is a burn to the lung tissue. So, like, any burn, it’s going to take a while to recover. Not only that, like other burns it may leave scarring behind. So there may be some permanent impairment of lung function after injury,” said Dr. David Persse, with the City of Houston Public Health Authority.
Keiser said there have been cases involving people who’ve gone home and gotten better, but took a turn for the worse once they stopped treating the lung illness with steroids.
“Steroids blunt the immune system so once they stop they’ve ended up back in the hospital,” Keiser said.
The Trump administration announced last week a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes but left in exceptions for nicotine-emitting devices.