Third person dies after more than 100 sickened in tainted synthetic pot outbreak in Illinois, officials say


A third person has died and more than 100 people have been sickened by tainted synthetic pot that has caused symptoms of severe bleeding, state health officials announced Monday.

The third person to die in the outbreak was a man in his 40s in Central Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. More than half of the people who have been sickened in the outbreak are from the Peoria area.

In Peoria County, 29 people have been hospitalized in recent weeks while 32 others have been hospitalized in nearby Tazewell County, according to state health officials.

In total, 107 people have been hospitalized, including the three people who have died, since March 7, according to state officials. Numerous people who reported being sick after using synthetic pot later tested positive for brodifacoum, a poison commonly used in rodent control. Those sickened have reported blood in the urine, severe bloody noses, bleeding gums and internal bleeding.

Exposure to brodifacoum causes the human body to block its natural use of vitamin K, which helps in the process of blood clotting, according to Dr. Patrick Lank, a medical toxicologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A person exposed to brodifacoum would have to take high doses of vitamin K for weeks to months to manage their symptoms.

State officials previously have said that over-the-counter vitamin K supplements are not strong enough to treat the condition.

Synthetic cannabinoid is a man-made mixture of hundreds of chemicals that affect the same brain cell receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana. The substance can be sprayed on a plant material so it can be smoked, or it can be sold in a liquid form to be used in e-cigarettes or similar devices, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Check back for updates.

emalagon@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ElviaMalagon

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