BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The public health crisis linking vaping to serious illnesses is getting worse.

The Maryland Health Department now says cases of vaping related illnesses have tripled in recent weeks.

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The number of cases in the State of Maryland has now increased to 15. That’s up from five reported cases at the end of last month.

“They’re extremely short of breath, have low oxygen levels and you look at their X-ray and it looks like dense pneumonia, but it’s not pneumonia in the sense of an infection, it’s respiratory failure, the lungs are failing,” Mercy Lung Center Director Albert Polito said.

However, across the country, the number of vaping illnesses has been reduced.

The Centers for Disease Control revised the total number of cases Thursday from 450 to 380 — only counting cases that are most closely linked to the use of e-cigarettes.

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Doctors, however, still don’t know what’s causing the illnesses.

“There’s no consistent finding just yet that we can track along that this has happened to,” Polito said.

Local vape shop manager Paul Snelson said he thinks a lot of these cases are happening because people are misusing e-cigarettes and vaping products that are not meant to be vaped.

“How do we know it’s not their THC cartridge? Are they getting something that’s counterfeit that’s causing these issues?” he said. “We’re kind of just jumping the gun without any hard evidence.”

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Polito says the best way to avoid developing serious lung illnesses is to stop vaping.

Stetson Miller