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U.S. health officials say there may be multiple causes to vaping-related illness

FILE PHOTO: A man uses a vape device in this illustration picture, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) - U.S. health officials said on Friday there may be more than one cause to the outbreak of the mysterious lung illness linked to e-cigarette use and said they do not see a meaningful drop in new cases.

As of Tuesday, 1,299 confirmed or probable cases of lung injuries linked to vaping were recorded in the United States. About 80% of patients were under age 35, and 26 deaths have been linked to the illness.

Investigators have not yet linked the cases to any specific product or compound, but have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as being especially risky.

“I think there will be multiple causes and potentially more than one root cause,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a telebriefing on Friday.

The CDC also said it has issued an updated guidance for doctors caring for patients who may have both a vaping lung injury and a lung infection.

As the outbreak picks up pace, some states, including New York, Michigan and Rhode Island, have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, while Massachusetts has gone a step further by imposing a four-month ban on all vaping products.

Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd earlier this week said it will stop the sale of e-cigarette components in the U.S., and retailers Kroger Co, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc have moved to stop the sale of the devices.

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to urge people to stop vaping, especially products containing THC - the high-inducing component in marijuana.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Shailesh Kuber