The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has seen five cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) since July 2022, marking the first time there were multiple cases reported in one year since 2011. The DHS reports seeing, on average, zero to one case per year since 2011. The DHS is now monitoring this increase and has released a health alert to the public.
Four out of the five reported cases were related to super absorbency tampon usage and occurred in teens between the ages of 13 and 17. No cases have resulted in death.
All patients presented symptoms of hypotension, fever and apparent organ dysfunction in three or more systems one to two days after using a super absorbency tampon. All patients were hospitalized and subsequently recovered, according to the DHS’s press release.
TSS is a potentially fatal illness caused by bacteria formations. The bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes) produce extremely harmful toxins to the body.
“Toxic shock syndrome can progress rapidly leading to complications such as shock, organ failure and death,” State Health Officer Paula Tran explained in a press release last week.
TSS is treated with a combination of antibiotics and supportive care to combat dehydration and potential organ failure.
Appropriate tampon usage is defined by the DHS as only using the lowest absorbency, remembering to change the tampon every four to six hours and avoiding wearing them overnight.
The DHS recommends tampon users be aware of TSS symptoms, including sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle aches, low blood pressure, rash and shock with multi-organ dysfunction. If any symptoms are experienced, the DHS advises to seek medical treatment or call 911 immediately.
Preventative measures include parents and guardians, school nurses and other adults informing teens using tampons about the danger of TSS.
The DHS asks Wisconsin physicians and healthcare workers to be extremely aware of early signs of TSS. It is a category II communicable disease, meaning health care providers are required to report instances of TSS to the public health department within 72 hours of identification.
The disease was recognized in 1978, when conclusions were drawn between tampon usage and the correlation to TSS. However, while tampons promote the presence of bacteria which causes TSS, tampons alone do not cause the illness. Other factors associated with the syndrome include surgical wounds and childbirth.
It is important to remain aware of signs of TSS if experiencing any of those symptoms or factors. The DHS website is home to general information on TSS and provider information, as well as case reports and follow ups.