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20 hours ago · by · Comments Off on Coronavirus Cases Soar

Coronavirus Cases Soar

 

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The death toll from coronavirus continues to soar, now surpassing 1,700 and overtaking the global death toll from the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, the first death of a U.S. citizen was recorded last week. The World Health Organization is warning the coronavirus poses a “grave threat” to the world, as there are more than 73,000 confirmed infections worldwide.

New cases were identified on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, bringing the number of confirmed cases on board to over 500.  Around 3,700 people have been quarantined aboard the ship where crew members say the workers aren’t being protected from infection. Faced with continuing transmissions on the Diamond Princess, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new travel restrictions for the ship’s passengers and crew.

After leaving the ship, on which passengers are scheduled to be released from quarantine Feb. 19, all passengers and crew will be required to wait an additional 14 days before returning to the United States. Should an individual from the cruise arrive in the U.S. earlier than that, they’ll be subject to mandatory quarantine until they’ve gone 14 days without exhibiting symptoms or, conversely, test positive. More than 100 Americans remain either on the ship or hospitalized in Japan.

—The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting COVID-19 is up to 20 times more deadly than the flu, with a fatality rate of about 2.3%.  Doctors in Shanghai have started using the blood plasma from some of the 14,000 patients who have recovered from the disease to treat new patients.  Chinese doctors are also trying antiviral drugs licensed for use against other infections to see if they might help. Scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital had said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

 

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on CDC Prepares For Coronavirus Outbreak in US

CDC Prepares For Coronavirus Outbreak in US

 

 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is preparing for the new coronavirus, which has killed at least 1,115 and sickened more than 45,000 worldwide, to “take a foothold in the U.S.”  Health officials have confirmed 13 U.S. cases of the virus, now named COVID-19, short for Corona Virus Disease. They are awaiting test results of 61 additional test subjects. A total of 420 people in the US have been investigated for possible infection with 347 testing negative.  

Since mid January, the CDC has monitored more than 30,000 travelers coming to the U.S. from China. They have not detected any cases from returning travelers. Health officials are asking the travelers to monitor their own symptoms and limit their outdoor activities.  A mistake at a lab led U.S. health officials to release an infected coronavirus patient from a San Diego hospital. The patient had been evacuated from Wuhan. The CDC said there are new measures in place to make sure it does not happen again.

World Health Organization officials have said they are worried about the virus mutating.  The coronavirus produces mild cold symptoms in about 80% of patients. About 15% of the people who contract the virus have ended up with pneumonia, with 3% to 5% of all patients needing intensive care.  

The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, has ordered residents to report their body temperature daily, and the large port city of Tianjin said it would restrict residents’ movement, part of steps across the country to stop the coronavirus outbreak from spreading. The city is conducting door-to-door inspections as well, and will send someone to check on people displaying a fever, according to a notice posted by the provincial government. People with symptoms will be sent to a community health center for evaluation.

In Beijing, the Chinese government voiced anger as countries placed more restrictions on travelers.  More than 50 countries or territories have imposed travel restrictions and tightened visa requirements to contain the spread of coronavirus, according to the International Air Transport Association.  The U.S. government has continued to charter evacuation flights for US Nationals departing Wuhan, China.  All evacuees spend a mandatory two weeks under quarantine while they’re monitored for symptoms of the flu-like virus. 

A cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, is still under quarantine after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, tested positive for the virus.  The ship, which is currently off Japan’s coast, now has 174 confirmed cases of coronavirus as the virus spreads. There are more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship under quarantine.  

 

 

 

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Founder of Insys Sentenced For Role In Opioid Epidemic

Founder of Insys Sentenced For Role In Opioid Epidemic

 

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Former billionaire and pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison. His sentencing is the first successful prosecution of a pharmaceutical executive tied to the opioid epidemic.  The 76-year-old is the founder of Insys Therapeutics, which made and aggressively marketed the potent opioid painkiller Subsys.  Kapoor’s 66-month prison term is substantially less than the 15-year sentence recommended by federal prosecutors, but it is more than the one year requested by his defense attorneys.  U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs explained that she reached the lesser sentence after considering Kapoor’s advanced age and philanthropy, as well as “his central role in the crime.”

Kapoor and four other executives were found guilty last year of orchestrating a criminal conspiracy to bribe doctors to prescribe the company’s medication, including to patients who didn’t need it. They then lied to insurance companies to make sure the costly oral fentanyl spray was covered.  The painkiller, which was intended for cancer patients, could cost as much as $19,000 a month.  An investigative report found at least 908 deaths in which Subsys is a primary suspect.  The company entered into an agreement with the government to settle criminal and civil investigations.  Insys admitted to the kickback scheme and agreed to pay $225 million.  Shortly after the agreement was announced the company filed for bankruptcy.

Two other executives pled guilty and became cooperating witnesses.  Former CEO and President of Insys Therapeutics was sentenced in federal court for bribing practitioners to prescribe Subsys, a fentanyl-based pain medication, often when medically unnecessary.  Approved by the FDA only for cancer pain, doctors receiving kickbacks, prescribed the spray for routine back pain, migraines and other ailments.

Michael Babich, 43, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture to be determined at a later date. In January 2019, Babich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, and agreed to cooperate with the government.  Insys sales chief Alec Burlakoff was sentenced to 26 months in prison for his role in the bribery and fraud scheme.  The sales executive hired a stripper as a Subsys sales representative to help persuade doctors to boost prescriptions. The woman, named Sunrise Lee, eventually was promoted to oversee a third of the company’s sales force.  She was sentenced to one year in prison for her role in the scheme.

 

 

 

 

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Chicago Police Ordered To Release Misconduct Records

Chicago Police Ordered To Release Misconduct Records

 

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A Cook County judge has ordered Chicago police to release police misconduct investigation files from 1967 to 2015, by the end of the year.  A judge set a timeline for the release of all of the files by December 31, 2020, after the city failed to comply with a previous court-ordered deadline to turn over 4 years of the files.

At the center of the case is Charles Green,  who was 16 years old when he was arrested in 1985 for a quadruple murder on the city’s west side. He was accused of accepting $25 to knock on the door of a drug dealer’s apartment so rivals could go in and kill the people inside. He says his confession was coerced.  Green said he gave in eventually and just said what they wanted me to say.

Green walked out of prison in 2009 after a judge reduced his sentence and he’s been fighting to clear his name. In 2015, his attorney sent an open records request asking for police misconduct investigation files for the entire department dating back to 1967 to preserve evidence not only in Green’s case, but for others who may be wrongfully convicted.  Green’s attorney, Jared Kosoglad said the order threatens to expose decades of police corruption and other skeletons out of CPD’s closet.

Activists have argued for the release of complaint files, but most have remained hidden.  Legal experts say police could have argued Green’s request was overly burdensome. But the department didn’t respond, in violation of state law, and Green filed a lawsuit.

A spokesman for the city Department of Law says the Lightfoot Administration is asking the judge to reconsider the decision to order the release of the files.  The department released a statement that said: “The City of Chicago is committed to the highest level of transparency and responds to tens of thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests every year, including requests regarding allegations against Chicago Police officers. This request is different, however, as it seeks every Complaint Register file created since 1967 – approximately 175,000 files, each of which contain dozens to hundreds of pages.  The City is currently involved in litigation regarding this request, and the matter is still pending before the court. Complying with this request would present numerous challenges, including millions of dollars in costs and expended public resources.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Saudi Government Sentences Five To Death in Khashoggi Murder

Saudi Government Sentences Five To Death in Khashoggi Murder

 

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Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death for the killing of prominent journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Three additional people were sentenced to prison over the brutal October 2018 murder carried out inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which sparked international outrage. Saudi Arabia has not announced who has been sentenced to death or imprisoned. The CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, but the prince remains a close ally to the U.S. government.

Saudi Arabia has cleared a former top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  There was no evidence against Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan announced in a televised press conference.  A court also dismissed charges against Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief, and Mohammed al-Otaibi, Saudi’s consul general in Istanbul when the murder took place.  Al-Qahtani and al-Otaibi were sanctioned a year ago by the US Treasury for their alleged involvement in the murder. Both were part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle and were relieved of their duties in the immediate aftermath of Khashoggi’s killing.

The Saudi government investigation concluded that the murder was not premeditated and that the perpetrators agreed to kill the journalist when they found it would be too hard to move him to another location.  They determined that “there was no prior intention to kill him at the beginning of the mission and the death happened on the spot.” Prosecutors investigated 31 people in relation to the murder of Khashoggi, 21 of whom were arrested.  Eleven of the 21 were charged and tried in total secrecy. 

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard called the court rulings “anything but justice” in a series of posts on her official Twitter account. The UN expert previously found “sufficient credible evidence” that called for the Saudi Crown Prince to be investigated.  Callamard criticized the court’s conclusion that the killing was not premeditated, citing “the presence of a forensic doctor,” how the “defendants had repeatedly stated they were obeying orders” and how the consul general “took all necessary precautions to ensure there will be no eye witness present.  Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.”

Khashoggi’s son eldest son Salah, who handles the family’s relations with the government, described the ruling as “fair” on Twitter.  “A fair judiciary is based on 2 principles: justice and quick proceedings. Today’s judiciary was fair to us, the sons of Jamal Khashoggi.  We affirm our confidence in Saudi judiciary on all its levels as it ruled in our favor and achieved justice.” Earlier this year, Salah denied that a settlement had been reached between his family and the Saudi government after a source claimed that Khashoggi’s family have received millions of US dollars in cash and assets as compensation for the killing. 

 

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Wisconsin Teen Facing 1st Degree Murder

Wisconsin Teen Facing 1st Degree Murder

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A Wisconsin teenager, Crystul Kizer, is facing life in prison after she confessed to killing
34-year-old Randall Volar at his home last year after she says he raped her, according to her attorneys. The killing incident occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, in June 2018. Kizer allegedly shot Volar twice in the head, set his home on fire and then stole his luxury vehicle. Randy Volar began sexually abusing Chrystul Kizer when she was 16 years old, filmed the abuse and allegedly trafficked her for sex.

Kizer says she connected with Volar through the now-defunct Backpage.com, which was shut down last year for its involvement in human trafficking. Kizer reportedly told Volar she was 19 at the time, but she was actually 16 when he allegedly began paying her for sex and eventually selling her to other men. She admits to initially lying about her age but says Volar knew she was a minor because they had celebrated her 17th birthday together. The teen said she eventually tried to distance herself from Volar, because she wanted to get more serious with her boyfriend, Delane Nelson, who is three years older than her. Volar allegedly threatened to kill Kizer when she told Volar about her decision. Kizer didn’t report the threats to police, as she was convinced they would not help her. In June 2018, Kizer said she had reached out to Volar after getting into a fight with Nelson.

The teen claims she was afraid her boyfriend would hurt her, so she asked Volar if she could come to his house until things cooled down.  Months before his death, in February 2018, Volar was arrested on charges of child sexual assault. He was taken into custody shortly after a 15-year-old girl called the police from his house, claiming Volar had given her drugs and was going to kill her. In a search of his home, they confiscated computers and other electronics, along with women’s bikini bottoms and underwear.
Although police found evidence Volar was abusing dozens of underage girls, he was released without bail. At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography — and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with. In June 2018, Chrystul killed him after she says he attacked her when she refused to have sex with him. At the time of his death he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography — and Chrystul Kizer was among the girls police had footage of him having sex with.
When confronted by police, Kizer, who was 17 at the time, allegedly confessed to killing him because she was tired of him sexually assaulting her. She also alleged that he sold her to other men for sex, which is why her attorneys say she should be protected under sex trafficking victim laws. Kizer faces multiple felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a firearm and arson, court records show. She is currently being held on $1 million bail and faces life in prison if convicted.
District Attorney Michael Graveley built a first-degree homicide case against her and wrangled with the public defenders about whether they had the right to review the case against Volar and the accompanying video, photographic, and financial evidence. Eventually Kizer’s lawyers were granted access to evidence that clearly showed Kizer had been trafficked. Federal law dictates that any child under the age of 18 who has been bought or sold for sex is a sex-trafficking victim, regardless of circumstance. Prosecutors say the law that protects those who are sex trafficked doesn’t apply wholly in this case. They said they do not believe she was engaged in prostitution at the time of the crime and they don’t believe her life was in danger at the moment.  Prosecutors also said they have evidence, including communications with Kizer’s boyfriend and others, indicating that she plotted and planned the murder ahead of time

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former Resource Officer Charged For Body Slamming 11 Year Old

Former Resource Officer Charged For Body Slamming 11 Year Old

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A former North Carolina school resource officer was fired after video surface showing him body slamming an 11 year old child went viral. The assault at Vance County Middle School was caught on surveillance video, which shows the school resource officer and a small boy walking down the hallway when the officer picks the boy up and throws him to the ground. The officer then picks the boy up again and slams him to the ground again. The officer, Warren Durham, was first placed on paid leave and was then fired as the disturbing video went viral.
District Attorney Mike Waters said Durham is also facing a misdemeanor assault and child abuse charges. The announcement came a day after the State Bureau of Investigation finished its probe into the incident. While the family wanted Warren Durham to face stiffer felony charges, Waters said state law left him no choice but to pursue misdemeanor charges against the ex-officer. “Despite the violent nature of this assault depicted in the video, the student did not suffer any fractured or broken bones, or sustain any injuries that could be defined under North Carolina law as serious bodily injury,” which are a prerequisite for filing felony charges, the district attorney said during a news conference.
Waters said he didn’t know what prompted the incident, but he echoed the sentiment of Vance County Sheriff Curtis Brame in saying that the cause wasn’t relevant. “Ï don’t think there’s any kind of training or anything like that that would lead someone to act in that way with an 11-year-old,” Waters said. The maximum sentence Durham will face is 120 days in jail. The video shows the Vance County Middle School resource officer walking down the hall with the student. He is then seen grabbing and slamming the child to the ground, then picking him up and doing it again before yanking the child up and continuing to walk down the hall.

The school alerted the sheriff’s office minutes after the incident. Durham had been with the department for two years and had had no prior incidents that raised concern.
The boy’s grandfather, Pastor John Miles said at a news conference that the family was
disappointed in the misdemeanor charges, but he thanked officials. “We wanted them to be felony charges,” he said. “But as the D.A. said, they went by the law book and they went by the guidelines.” Miles said previously that his grandson called his mother after the incident, and that an assistant principal at the school took him home. The boy’s
mother has said he has a bump on his head from the incident but was not hospitalized.

The Vance County school district said the incident was “unacceptable and egregious.” “We are disappointed, embarrassed and most of all, want to express our apologies to our community that this occurred,” the district said in a statement Monday. “No student should ever experience this anywhere, especially not in our schools. We are better than this.” Vance County Schools plans to modify its agreement with the sheriff’s office, Superintendent Anthony Jackson said at a news conference. He did not go into detail about what the modifications meant, but said the district will review protocols and procedures and ensure it is using best practices.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Guards Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

Guards Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

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Four Rikers Island correctional officers were suspended for allegedly waiting several minutes to rescue an inmate who had tried to hang himself in a cell, authorities and law-enforcement sources said.  Surveillance The video showed the officers stood by for seven minutes while a teenager attempted to hang himself. Video shows one officer even walked up to the holding pen where the teenager was hanging, opened the door, then closed the door and walked away without intervening. The city’s Department of Investigation opened an inquiry into the incident.

The guards — three correction officers and one captain — are accused of inaction during the near-fatal incident when Nicholas Feliciano, 18, allegedly attempted to hang himself at the George R. Vierno Center at about 12 a.m. on Nov. 28.  The captain had witnessed the incident on surveillance footage and went to the inmate to cut him down, sources said.  Feliciano was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition with no brain activity and remains in a medically induced coma.  The 18-year-old had been jailed in Rikers since November 19th when he was arrested on a parole violation.  Feliciano had been in an altercation at the jail earlier in the day of suicide attempt and had been moved from general population into a holding cell by himself.

Video footage of the suicide attempt described to the Times shows him wrap one end of a piece of clothing around his neck and another to a pipe on the ceiling of the cell. He then stepped off a wall that separates the toilet from the rest of the cell and hangs from his neck.  At one point during the attempt, Feliciano appeared to have second thoughts and struggled to get his feet back on the wall. He hung from the pipe for about seven minutes before he was rescued.  The area of the attempted suicide was in view of a guard desk where officers can monitor activity through video feeds. The actions of the officers were recorded by a separate camera.

Rikers Island has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality.  The jail complex saw hundreds of stabbings every year during the 1980s and early 1990s.  In 2014, an Associated Press investigation detailed dozens of inmate deaths including that of a homeless ex-Marine who essentially baked to death in a hot cell.  In 2016, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a lack of adequate training and a rising mentally ill population have made an already bad situation in the jail worse.  New York City lawmakers voted in October to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which has become synonymous with violence and neglect, and replace it with four smaller jails in separate boroughs by 2026.  The plan has been met with pushback from communities where the new jails would be located.

 

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Article Reveals Coal Industry Aware of Global Warming Risks Since 1960s

Article Reveals Coal Industry Aware of Global Warming Risks Since 1960s

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In recent years, it’s become evident that oil giant Exxon was aware of the causes and consequences of climate change from at least the 1970s, but chose to deliberately mislead the public for decades. A newly resurfaced article now shows coal industry executives equally understood the science of catastrophic global warming as far back as 1966.  According to a copy of the magazine Mining Congress Journal, leaders of the coal industry knew as early as the mid-1960s that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.

The head of a now defunct mining research company wrote that the combustion of fossil fuels was increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing global temperature increases.  The recently discovered article now provides evidence that both the coal and oil industries have known about catastrophic climate change for decades, yet worked to cover up the evidence in order to continue burning fossil fuels.

James Garvey, the then-president of Bituminous Coal Research Inc., which developed pollution control equipment, discussed the state of pollutants and their regulation in the coal industry at the time.  While much of the paper is concerned with sulphur in coal, a small section early in the article is concerned with carbon dioxide (CO2) discharge.  “There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels,” Garvey writes.

“If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the Earth will result.  Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London.”

Garvey’s article isn’t the only one acknowledging the dangers of coal-produced pollution in the August 1966 issue.  In a discussion piece following Garvey’s paper, combustion engineer James Jones from Peabody Coal (now called Peabody Energy, the largest private coal company in the world), does not address the global warming issue, but admits that air pollution standards to protect health have a place, saying the “Situation is Urgent”.

Jones wrote “We are in favor of cleaning up our air.  We are, in effect, ‘buying time’. But we must use that time productively to find answers to the many unsolved problems.”  In the decades to come, Peabody would become a huge industrial player in organized climate change denial.  At the end of his article, Jones wondered: “What can an individual with a personal stake in the future of the coal industry do?”  Among the answers he offered, “Be a ‘one-man’ public relations emissary for the coal industry,” Jones explained to his industry colleagues.  “Tell your neighbours, friends, and the general public how important coal is to their every-day existence. Also tell them about the all-out cooperative efforts of the coal industry to reduce air pollution.”

The concerted effort to discredit the scientific consensus over man-made global warming has been continuing for two decades in the United States and shows no sign of weakening. It is often described as an attempt on the part of corporate America, most notably the fossil fuel industries, to hinder governmental regulations on their activities.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on New Cases of Mysterious Vaping Illness Continue

New Cases of Mysterious Vaping Illness Continue

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Lung injuries and deaths linked to the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products has continued to rise in the US.  The CDC has confirmed 2,290 vaping related lung injury cases and 47 deaths reported as of November 21st, 2019.  Cases have been reported in all states except Alaska, along with the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories.  Deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and Washington D.C., with more being investigated.  Those affected by these illnesses range in age from 13 to 75 years old.

CDC data shows on 514 patients, about 77% reported using THC-containing products in the 30 days prior to the start of their symptoms. However, 16% reported using only nicotine-containing products.  The illness is marked by chest pain, shortness of breath and vomiting, and it has largely affected young people. The vast majority of cases, almost 80%, involve e-cigarette users younger than 35, and another 15% are younger than 18.

While the investigation into the cause is still ongoing, the CDC has uncovered a potential cause- vitamin E acetate.  Samples taken from the lungs of 29 people with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury or (EVALI) all contained vitamin E acetate.  The CDC has also expanded its laboratory testing to include lung fluid, blood, and urine samples from patients, as well as lung biopsy and autopsy specimens.

Vitamin E acetate is commonly used in ingested supplements or skin care, and in those cases appears to be safe.  Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC said previous research has found that when vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung function.  She said they are no longer seeing such a dramatic rise in EVALI cases as earlier this fall but that some states are still investigating potential cases.

The agency continues to work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states, and health providers to track and investigate this outbreak.  The agency is also testing the vapor of e-cigarette products that have been involved in these cases to look for potentially harmful compounds.  While it appears that vitamin E acetate is associated with EVALI, evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other chemicals of concern to EVALI.  Many different substances and product sources are still under investigation, and it may be that there is more than one cause of this outbreak.

EVALI looks and sounds like pneumonia. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, nausea and vomiting. But it’s not an infection. The antibiotics used to clear up pneumonia don’t help the vaping illness and without knowing if a patient vapes-doctors might pursue the wrong treatment or miss the chance to encourage the person to stop.  The CDC reports that some early patients with the illness who have been out of the hospital for several weeks have begun receiving follow-up care. Doctors are reporting that patients’ recoveries have varied, with some patients appearing to make full recoveries and others continuing to have trouble breathing. CDC reported that some patients have relapsed and had to be hospitalized a second time, with readmissions occurring from as few as five days to as many as 55 days after initial discharge.

E-cigarette manufacturers have advertised their products as a better option for adult smokers who are already hooked on nicotine. For thousands of young people who have never smoked, however, vaping plays the opposite role: It establishes a nicotine addiction that will ultimately lead to cigarette smoking.

 

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