CDC investigating 3 local cases of TSS, experts say there could be one more

Posted at 9:41 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 23:41:39-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- We reported recently about three girls from West Michigan suffering from a rare infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

On Wednesday, the Kent County Health Departmentsaid they're investigating another possible case of TSS.

All of this, happening in the past month leaving many wondering, "what's the source?"

The Kent County Health Department is working to uncover answers to this rare infection, along with the Michigan Department of Community Healthand theCenter for Disease Control.

"We always monitor, that's what we do, it's our job," said Brian Hartl, an epidemiologist with the Kent County Health Department. "Initially, last week, we thought they were similar, in terms of brands."

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Community Health and Kent County Health Department uncovered new findings stating otherwise.

"Today, from the state health department, we realized that two of the cases used the same type of tampon, same brand," said Hartl. "They were all super-absorbent tampons. However, just a different brand...whenever we see a cluster of cases like this with a similar exposure, we want to look into it further."

Health officials learned this week there may be one more.

"We are investigating one potential case locally, that’s news that came in this week," said Hartl.

According to medical records, it doesn't meet the case definition of Toxic Shock Syndrome, but it has caught the attention of the Center for Disease Control.

"They can look at national data to see if there’s anything else out there, maybe other cases in other states that may have similar commonalities with the patients we have here," Hartl said.

Patients like 15-year-old Rylie Whitten of Greenville almost died from the infection. She has spent weeks in Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, but is on the mend to good health.

"I can’t explain the reasoning from the state as to why this isn’t an outbreak of Toxic Shock, but I think it has to do with number of cases, symptoms as well as the exposure," Hartl said, adding, there are other things involved with the way people are utilizing these tampons appropriately.

"How often they’re changing them out, you know, these are staph-oriented infections, so it could be introduced from putting them in. If staph is on the hands and skin... so I think some of those factors go into the reasoning behind not calling it an 'outbreak' of the product," Hartl said.

Hartl says the next step might be looking into the type of materials used in the tampons these patients used. Though, he said he's not sure how far the state's investigation will go from there.

"If there’s nothing else further they may close the case out," Hartl said.