But officials believe that number will grow, as it's possible contaminated products have been sold across the state. They said it came in sealed containers with names like Blue Giant and Crazy Monkey.
Affected individuals experienced coughing up blood, blood in the urine, bloody noses, and other symptoms, reported the Illinois Department of Public Health. At least 56 people were hospitalized and identified as having symptoms related to the fake marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are found across IL and the U.S.in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, and online.
The two deaths occurred in Peoria County and Kane County, and cases have been reported in nine counties so far outside Chicago.
"We continue to see the number of cases rise", said IDPH director Dr. Nirav Shah, who had previously called the synthetics "unsafe" due to the unknown chemicals used. "Without more information, IDPH does not know how much contaminated product is circulating or where".
"There could be additional deaths coming; it is hard to say", she added.
This isn't the first time a region of the United States has seen an outbreak of health problems tied to synthetic cannabinoids.
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These medical emergencies come less than a year after almost 80 people in Lancaster County overdosed on synthetic marijuana in less than 72 hours.
Arnold said that the Centers for Disease Control are sending epidemiologists to help in the investigation.
In 2016, 33 people in Brooklyn were made ill from suspected overdoses of synthetic pot.
'Because these products are not regulated, it's hard to know the chemical make-up, source and distribution'.
Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material for smoking or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices, IDPH said.
"These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as the main active ingredient in marijuana", IDPH explained, warning that the drug's impact can be life-threatening.
In the 1980s, synthetic cannabinoids were considered research compounds but they are now produced overseas, according to the CDC.