The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has alerted doctors nationwide about synthetic marijuana laced with rat poison after three people were killed in Illinois and more than a 100, including a few in four other states, were left vomiting blood, the Associated Press reports.
The outbreak began in early March, with Illinois reporting seven more cases on Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to at least 116.
The CDC said several patients and samples of the synthetic marijuana from Illinois have tested positive for a lethal ingredient often used in rat poison.
Symptoms include coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody noses, bleeding gums and internal bleeding. CDC’s alert says outside Illinois, emergency rooms in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin and Maryland have treated affected patients since March 10.
“This is an unusual outbreak,” Renee Funk of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that is unclear how the contamination occurred.
Synthetic cannabinoids contain man-made chemicals and are marketed as “Spice” or “K2.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic marijuana consists of chemicals that are sprayed on “dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.”
Tests on fake pot bought at a Chicago convenience store by undercover agents detected the rat poison ingredient, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release. Three store employees were arrested and face federal drug charges.