Four toxic shock syndrome cases have shown up in Michigan in 2016. The West Michigan TSS cluster has been linked to super tampons, reported People Magazine on Feb. 8. Toxic shock syndrome bacteria just about killed one teen, Rylie Whitten, 15, of Montcalm County, Michigan. Whitten had the worst cases of toxic shock syndrome that her physician had ever seen. The three other Michigan TSS cluster cases occurred in West Michigan–two in Grand Rapids and one northwest of Grand Rapids, in Mason County.
Toxic shock syndrome, a potentially deadly bacterial infection, is most commonly associated with use of super absorbency tampons. Health officials say all four women in the Michigan TSS cluster used super tampons. Three used the same brand and one used a different one. The brand names have not been released, but officials warn against using super tampons.
Toxic shock syndrome can be caused by different toxins. The causative bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) when TSS comes from enterotoxin type B or TSST-1. Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes) is the bacteria when streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxins are the culprit. This kind may be called toxic shock-like syndrome (TSLS) or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). Symptoms include fever, sore throat, vomiting and low blood pressure.
Michigan typically sees 4-8 cases of TSS a year. The Kent County Health Department was alarmed by the West Michigan TSS cluster so early in the year, including that of Rylie Whitten. The others in the Michigan TSS cluster had similar experiences to Rylie Whitten but less severe. Health officials don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or a connection but Rylie Whitten and the other women are being monitored to find out.
Health officials also didn’t say if super tampons or super plus tampons were used by Rylie Whitten or the other women. There are four tampon sizes–light, regular, super and super plus. Super plus is larger and even more absorbent and harks back to the Rely tampons scare that exposed TSS. First discovered in 1978, TSS was linked to Rely tampons. Procter and Gamble created Rely tampons after women requested super absorbent ones that could contain an entire period worth of blood. But it was found that Rely tampons worked too well. A bacteria contained in the old blood created flu-like symptoms. Deeping tampons in too long, such as overnight, is the biggest cause of toxic shock syndrome.
Rely tampons were pulled from the market and TSS died down. But it crops up and is usually caused when users leave tampons in too long or wear tampons overnight. Teenagers are more commonly affected by TSS because they are more likely to misuse tampons. Women are advised to wear tampons no longer than 6 hours and to avoid using them during sleep. Parents are encouraged to make sure their daughters are using tampons correctly. Until the cause of the Michigan TSS cluster cases can be determined, women are advised to avoid super tampons, and particularly super plus tampons.