Nebraska sees 1st vaping-linked death; fatality marks 13th in nation: officials

State health officials in Nebraska on Monday announced the first vaping-linked death in the state, bringing the nation’s total number of e-cigarette-associated fatalities to 13.

The patient, who was not identified by health officials, was over the age of 65 and lived in the Douglas County area, according to a statement from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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The patient passed away in May, officials said.

“Prior to the outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping in Wisconsin and Illinois this past August, vaping-associated lung injuries were unreported and not tracked by public health agencies. Once the problem was recognized, states quickly ramped up surveillance and found current cases, but have also discovered cases that occurred before the August outbreak,” Dr. Tom Safranek, a state epidemiologist for the Nebraska DHHS, said of why the person’s vaping-linked death is only now coming to light.

The patient was identified by his family as 68-year-old John Steffen, a smoker who began using e-cigarettes roughly five years ago as a way to quit, his wife said.

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Nebraska health officials said there are currently 11 cases of vaping-related illnesses in the state. Two additional cases are under investigation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late last week described a possible link between the current outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries and the use of THC-containing vaping products.

The CDC’s findings indicated that out of 514 patients with suspected vaping-related illnesses, 77 had self-reported that they had been using products containing THC, or using both nicotine- and THC-containing products.

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THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, responsible for users’ “high” sensation.

That said, the exact cause of the current outbreak of vaping-related illnesses remains unknown. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with state and local health agencies, are still investigating the 805 vaping-related lung illness cases reported across 46 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.