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Understanding Toxic Shock Syndrome

While current statistics are not available, researchers, doctors and educators are clear one thing: it is very dangerous and it needs to be discussed.  


“TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) is a very unfamiliar disease which explains why many don’t know the consequences that come from it,” science teacher Lindsey DeLuca said of this disease caused by the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus which normally lives harmlessly on the skin and in the nose, armpit, groin or vagina of  person; however, one in every three individuals carries certain strains of bacteria that can produce poisonous toxins.


According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, “Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections. The sudden increase in TSS cases is both notable and worrisome.”


In the past, women using certain feminine products would get Toxic Shock, but since those types of products aren’t used anymore doctors are finding it stargane that cases are increasing.  In March 2016, The Washington Post published that five cases of menstrual-related toxic shock syndrome (TSS) were reported in the state of Michigan.


Post reporter Leigh Cowart wrote, “for women who remember the rise of TSS in the 1970s, the illness and its risk factors may be familiar. But now that the most dangerous tampons have long been off the market, a lack of public awareness could be contributing to the condition’s spike.”


Because of the toxins, TSS from Staphylococcus aureus has a mortality rate of between 5 and 15 percent, but for Streptococcal TSS, the mortality rate jumps up to 30 to 70 percent. Although it was once associated with women and menstruation, TSS can  be found in any infection.  Examples can include infections from burns, cuts, wounds and ear piercings.


During his 22 years of being a medicine, Infectious disease doctor Dr. Sanjay Revankar, said that  he has personally seen several cases of Toxic Shock and notices it increase even though seventy to 80 percent of people have developed antibodies by adolescence, and with 90 to 95 percent by adulthood.


With this data, Cowart questioned  that it seems that “something else might be going on.”  One answer might be center on the fact that outbreaks haven’t been publicized and most older generations may see TSS as a disease that was “cured” a long time ago thus young people may be less educated educated on the dangers, and the signs and symptoms.


Another possibility could be because this life-threatening disease is “almost never is brought up in classrooms and is seen as a very taboo topic to discuss,” DeLuca said. “ It never comes up, unless someone brings it up as a question. We don’t cover it as much because I know they cover it in health class as well.”


However, health teacher Kathy Abbott explains that many educators assume that health class will “just cover [TSS],” but it is a small part of the class. TSS is a minuscule part of the total curriculum in health class. If covered at all, it would be in the Reproductive Unit when we talk about contraceptives.”


Revankar said that because TSS is from a virus it can no longer be a classified as a “female” issue. “It’s incredibly important for all populations to understand the that there isn’t just one cause or one infection. Both men and women can get it,” he said.  “It makes you very weak and very sick. Obviously, it is serious and life threatening when it does happen. Time is important. It can be pretty rapidly progressive and it is important [that] if you are feeling ill in that way to get to an emergency room quickly.”


After the outbreak in Michigan, Jennifer Eisner, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) published that,  “The cause of the increase in cases is unclear. [It’s] one reason we issued a public message to promote awareness among health-care providers, other state health departments, and Michigan residents.”  Because men, children, and nonmensutrating women can develop toxic shock, MDHHS “current goal is to push for more awareness.”


Parents, such as Zarine Torrey, a mother of two students in the Bloomfield District., feel as though education is the first “imperative” step in awareness.   “TSS is a very important issue and as a mom of a daughter I want her to know about the dangers,” she said. “ I don’t know a lot about Toxic Shock Syndrome which is why I believe it is imperative that schools start to talk more about it, Knowledge is power and the more that we know about a topic the more we can prevent the negative effects that can come from it.”


Doctors from the Mayo Clinic  report that symptoms can include”a sudden high fever, low blood pressure, a sudden high fever,  vomiting or diarrhea, a rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles confusion, muscle aches, redness of your eyes, mouth and throat, seizures and headaches


“If someone has a high fever or a rash and feels ill, there is nothing specific you can do. You should go to an emergency room as quickly as possible.”  said Revankar of this type of emergency. Continuing on he explained that patients with TSS  are always submitted to the hospital and a combination of surgery and antibiotics are usually required.

About the Writer
Sarah Kenkel, Social Media Manager

Hi! My name is Sarah Kenkel. I am currently a sophomore at Bloomfield Hills High School and this is my first year on the Hawkeye staff! I am on the forensics...

1 Comment

One Response to “Understanding Toxic Shock Syndrome”

  1. Alexis Rillema on February 16th, 2018 7:57 am

    This is such a good article. So interesting to learn new things about what aren’t good for me and what I need to change for better health.

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Understanding Toxic Shock Syndrome