MyFox8 reported that 2 people died and 54 other cases of severe bleeding were reported.
Fouad Masoud, 48 and Jad Allah, 44, from Justice, Illinois, a village near Chicago and Adil Khan Mohammed, 44 of Chicago were charged with selling synthetic cannabinoids - often called K2, Spice or fake weed. They said it came in sealed containers with names like Blue Giant and Crazy Monkey.
Several of the cases have been linked to brodifacoum, a toxic substance used in rat poison. Nine of these cases have tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used as a rodenticide, or rat poison.
Along with bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, other symptoms have included coughing up blood, blood in the urine and bleeding gums. At least 56 people were hospitalized and identified as having symptoms related to the fake marijuana. They can be found nationwide at convenience stores, gas stations, head shops, novelty stores and online. All 56 have required hospitalization for hemorrhaging; so far the bulk of the cases have been in Chicago, Cook County or Tazewell County, but others are scattered as far as Peoria.
"We continue to see the number of cases rise", said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.
"This is the first time we've seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area", she was quoted by the Fox affiliate as saying.
"There could be additional deaths coming; it is hard to say", Arnold added. None of those cases was fatal.
Since 2015 hundreds of people across the USA have overdosed and been hospitalized after smoking too much or bad batches of synthetic cannabis.
Arnold said that the Centers for Disease Control are sending epidemiologists to help in the investigation.
'Because these products are not regulated, it's hard to know the chemical make-up, source and distribution'.
Per the IDPH, synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on to dried plant material. They are marketed as drugs claiming to provide the effects of cannabis.
One study of a synthetic cannabinoid found that it was 85 times as potent as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana.
People who smoke synthetic cannabinoids can have rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations, according to the CDC.
"They include things like seizures, heart attack, kidney failure", said Lank, who was not involved in treating the recent synthetic cannabinoid cases.