U.S. vaping-related deaths rise to 54, hospitalizations to 2,506

(Reuters) - U.S. health officials said on Thursday two more deaths occurred since last week from a mysterious respiratory illness tied to vaping, taking the total toll to 54.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported 97 more hospitalized cases from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories, as of Dec. 17. The number of people hospitalized now stands at 2,506.

The deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and the CDC said more deaths are under investigation.

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A smoker is engulfed by vapours as he smokes an electronic vaping machine during lunch time in central London on August 9, 2017. - World stock markets and the dollar slid Wednesday after US President Donald Trump warned of "fire and fury" in retaliation to North Korea's nuclear ambitions, sending traders fleeing to safe-haven investments. In Europe, equities dived with London losing 0.6 percent, while Frankfurt shed 1.1 percent and Paris fell 1.4 percent. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
File - In this April 16, 2019, file photo, a researcher holds vape pens in a lab at Portland State University in Portland, Ore. Today Juul and hundreds of smaller companies are at the center of a political backlash that threatens to sweep e-cigarettes from stores shelves nationwide as politicians scramble to address two separate public health crises tied to vaping: underage use among teenagers and a mysterious and sometimes fatal lung ailment that affected more than a thousand people. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2019, file photo, electronic cigarette pods are displayed for sale at a shop, in Biddeford, Maine. Today Juul and hundreds of smaller companies are at the center of a political backlash that threatens to sweep e-cigarettes from stores shelves nationwide as politicians scramble to address two separate public health crises tied to vaping: underage use among teenagers and a mysterious and sometimes fatal lung ailment that affected more than a thousand people. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 3: A woman holds up a regulated box mod vaporizer during a "Let Us Vape Not Smoke" rally outside of the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Oct. 3, 2019. Within hours of Governor Charlie Bakers emergency ban last week on vape sales, products that consumers and medical marijuana patients had relied on for years suddenly disappeared from store shelves. Ten days later, the unintended consequences of the countrys strictest anti-vaping measure are coming into focus: customers crossing the border to buy e-cigarettes in New Hampshire, former smokers switching back to cigarettes, sick patients fearfully experimenting with unfamiliar alternatives, and others turning to the illicit market despite the risk of tainted products. Now, the Baker administration is facing a series of lawsuits and protests, part of a growing backlash from critics who insist the hastily conceived ban will ultimately harm, not improve, public health. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A sign advertises Juul vaping products in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes September 17, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign advertises Juul vaping products in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes September 17, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Flavored vaping products containing nicotine are seen in a store in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A man smokes an electronic cigarette inside a vape shop in Washington, DC, on July 9, 2019. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: E-juice, used in e-cigarette vaporizers, is displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop on June 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, 11-0, to be the first city in the United States to ban e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: E-Cigarette vaporizer components are displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop on June 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, 11-0, to be the first city in the United States to ban e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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U.S. officials in November reported the discovery of Vitamin E acetate — believed to be used as a cutting agent in illicit vaping products containing marijuana components — in all lung samples from 29 patients.

CDC has called Vitamin E acetate as a "chemical of concern" and recommended the substance not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping products, while the investigation is ongoing.

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