Friday, October 04, 2019

CDC's Communications are Likely Making this Outbreak Much Worse

A new survey released yesterday by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that the public believes that vaping nicotine-based e-liquids is much more harmful than vaping THC e-liquids.

While 54% of the public believes that vaping nicotine is very harmful, only 38% believe that vaping THC is very harmful. And while just 16% of the public does not believe that nicotine vapes are harmful, an amazing one-third (33%) of the public does not believe that vaping marijuana carries any risk.

These data are shocking in light of the fact that we are a good two months into an outbreak of severe respiratory failure and death, affecting more than 1,000 people, in which the overwhelming majority of cases vaped THC oils and contaminated, bootleg THC vape cartridges have been clearly tied to the outbreak, while there is currently no evidence that nicotine vapes are involved at all.

Given the life-threatening risks associated with vaping black market THC oils at this time, it is simply devastating to find that the public has very little appreciation of the severe risks associated with marijuana vaping and thinks that vaping nicotine e-liquids is much more harmful. This result is almost certainly related to the CDC's failure to clearly communicate to the public the extremely high level of risk associated with vaping THC and its concerted effort to try to blame traditional, legal, store-bought nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes for the outbreak.

The evidence that contaminated THC oils are linked to the outbreak continues to get stronger every day. Today it was revealed that 10 of the 11 reported outbreak case patients in Delaware admitted to the use of THC vapes. The other patient apparently did not admit to vaping marijuana but the results of a THC urine screen were either not announced or the test was not conducted.

Also today, a North Carolina Health News article revealed that early this summer, physicians at a North Carolina hospital observed the first three cases of the outbreak in the state and noticed that all three patients had vaped THC oils. The physicians immediately notified the CDC. Later, the same physicians published an article reporting five patients with lipoid pneumonia that was related to the use of THC oils.

Even though 100% of these patients were vaping black market THC, the CDC made nothing of that information and refused to warn the public not to vape black market THC, instead remaining deliberately vague in its warning in order to be able to implicate nicotine electronic cigarettes, which it has despised ever since they came on the market.

The authors of that article explicitly noted that their findings "highlight the importance of awareness of a potential association between use of marijuana oils or concentrates in e-cigarettes and lipoid pneumonia." Two weeks later, the CDC had yet to have clearly communicated that information to the public. And now, a full three weeks later, the CDC still stated (in today's North Carolina Health News article) that they just don't have any answers.

The CDC might not have any answers, but any guy off the street could have told you back in early September that if five young patients present with a severe, newly seen respiratory disease and all five report having vaped THC oils that the outbreak likely has something to do with vaping THC oils. It is incredible that the CDC hasn't advanced beyond that obvious conclusion after two months of investigation and has in fact gone backwards from that conclusion, trying to convince the public that we really don't know if THC oils have any involvement in the outbreak in the first place. We just don't have any answers, they continue to say.

I cannot overemphasize the level of irresponsibility that we are witnessing from the CDC. I can assure you that if I still worked at the CDC (I worked in the office that is leading this investigation), I would never have allowed this to occur.

After seeing this new survey results, I am now convinced beyond a doubt that this failed communication is making the outbreak worse than it would have been had the CDC clearly communicated to the public the connection that the guy on the street realized weeks ago. The message has simply not come across because the CDC, and in turn state health departments, are more concerned about implicating nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes than in actually trying to prevent further cases of this severe illness.

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