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First Utahn Dies After Vaping Illegal THC Cartridge, Health Officials Say

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah Department of Health officials reported a person in Salt Lake County has died from vaping illegal THC cartridges, marking the first death from vaping-related illness in Utah.

Utah Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said anyone vaping THC should stop now, and anyone getting sick from vaping should seek medical help.

“This outbreak is ongoing, so we’re getting cases reported to us nearly daily,” Dunn said. “We know that it’s likely associated to THC cartridges, so we really want people to stop vaping THC.”

Officials said the vaping death victim was a person under 30.

“So, very young. Died at home,” Dunn said. “Didn’t seek any medical care. It was a resident of Salt Lake County.”

The epidemiologist’s reaction to the death?

“Complete sorrow, and it’s a tragedy,” she said. “With that, also the need to really move faster on this investigation to prevent another death.”

For confidentiality reasons, they couldn’t release anything more about the victim, or where or when the person died, other than saying the death happened during their vaping investigation, which has been ongoing more than a month. An autopsy by the state medical examiner determined the fatal lung disease was caused by vaping THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana.

Department of health officials said they do not know where the illegal THC cartridges are coming from.

So far, the Utah Department of Health has reported 76 cases of vaping-related lung injuries, with another 14 potential cases under investigation. More than 90% those people were hospitalized. Many required treatment in intensive care units and 94% of Utah cases self-reported vaping THC.

“The vast majority of our cases report getting the THC cartridges on the street, or from elicit places,” Dunn said.

They’re not sure where the illegal cartridges are coming from, but Dunn said lab evidence implicates THC in this vaping-illness case and others across the country.

“In order to stop this outbreak, people need to stop vaping THC,” she said.

However, Dunn said she’s also concerned about vaping nicotine.

“The illnesses are caused by THC cartridges, at this point. However, vaping anything, especially nicotine which is highly addictive, is not good for your health,” she said.

Vaping illness typically starts with vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, then leads to breathing problems about a week later. The Salt Lake County vaping-illness victim never sought medical attention.

Health department officials want to make sure that anybody who is getting sick from vaping takes it seriously and gets help.