Wisconsin DHS reports increased number of toxic shock syndrome cases

Health experts say it can progress into complications like shock, organ failure, or even death
Wisconsin is raising awareness after 5 cases in 7 months -- after years with no cases at all.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:18 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin is seeing the highest number of reported toxic shock syndrome cases, or T.S.S.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reported five suspected cases since July. Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the Chief Medical Officer at the DHS, Bureau of Communicable Diseases says the department doesn’t know exactly why so many cases have been reported since the summer.

“It could just be to chance, it’s a coincidence or there could be underlying causes,” said Westergaard. “Maybe people are less aware of the risks associated with tampon use than they were in the past. So, we’re investigating that.”

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by a toxin produced by bacteria. It’s typically associated with tampon use in young women, but it can affect anyone of any age, including men and children. Health experts emphasize it can progress into complications like shock, organ failure, and even death and it’s important to recognize the symptoms.

“We also want people to understand the science and symptoms of T.S.S, which are fever, low blood pressure, fainting, sometimes rash, and we want clinicians to be on the look out for this as well,” Westergaard notes.

Health officials suggest following safe practices, and being careful about which feminine hygiene products you buy, especially those ordered online.

“It helps that the FDA regulates tampons that you can buy,” says Kim Shefchik, a Physicians Assistant at Bellin heath. “If you’re looking for something that’s reusable, you have to be a little careful because those aren’t regulated. So if you’re looking at products on shelves at the store... those are regulated.”

The DHS encourages parents and school nurses to protect the health of teens by talking to them about the proper use of feminine hygiene products.

Toxic Shock Syndrome numbers are highest in more than a decade in Wisconsin