Toxic Shock Syndrome - Description

Toxic shock syndrome first came to public attention in the 1970s when thousands of young women began to go to emergency rooms with a common set of symptoms. Those symptoms included high fever, vomiting, peeling skin, low blood pressure, diarrhea, and a rash resembling sunburn. Most of these women had one thing in common: they were all menstruating. And the majority were using a new type of tampon called a super-absorbent tampon.

The epidemic reached its peak between 1980 to 1984. During that period, about fifteen thousand people a year were diagnosed with TSS. About 15 percent of those who got the disease died of it.

Doctors were not certain what the connection was between TSS and super-absorbent tampons, but it was obvious that some connection existed. Tampon manufacturers were encouraged to discontinue the product and when the manufacturers did, the number of TSS cases began to fall dramatically. Since 1998, only about 5,000 cases of TSS are diagnosed annually. The death rate has fallen to about 5 percent.

For many years, TSS has been thought of as a woman's disease because of the connection between TSS and tampons. And while TSS is largely a disease that affects menstruating women under the age of thirty, individuals of either sex, any age, and any race or ethnic group can get disease.

Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS)

The form of toxic shock syndrome first seen in the 1970s is caused by a group of bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus (pronounced STAFF-uhloh-kock-us AW-ree-us). In 1987 a new form of TSS was discovered that is caused by a different bacterium that belongs to the Streptococcus (pronounced strep-tuh-KOK-us) family.

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