Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare, life-threatening bacterial infection that is usually
caused by exotoxin producing strains of Staphylococcus aureus
. In 1980, an outbreak of TSS
occurred that mostly involved young women who had been using a particular brand of ultra-absorbent
tampons. Since the removal of ultra-absorbent tampons from the US market, cases are rarely linked
to tampons anymore. In addition to women, TSS can also occur in men and children. Other risk
factors for infection include skin wounds and surgery.
Toxic Shock Syndrome became a nationally reportable disease in 1980 and is a reportable condition
in California. In Los Angeles County, approximately one to three cases are confirmed each year.
The surveillance case definition as recommended by the CDC and Council of State and Territorial
Epidemiologists (CSTE) includes both clinical and laboratory data. Cases are defined as probable
if five of the six clinical findings described below are present while cases are confirmed if
all of the criteria described below are present, including desquamation, unless the patient dies
before desquamation occurs.
• Multisystem involvement (in three or more organ symptoms)
• Negative results on the following tests, if obtained:
° Blood, throat, or cerebrospinal fluid cultures
(blood culture may be positive for Staphylococcus aureus)
° Rise in titer to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, leptospirosis, or measles
CDC: Technical Information
Hajjeh RA, Reingold A, Weil A, et al. Toxic shock syndrome in the United States:
surveillance update, 1979-1996. Emerg Infect Dis J. 1999;5:no. 6.
Gavanta S. Reingold AL, Hightower AW et al., Active surveillance for toxic shock
syndrome in the United States. 1986. Rev Infect Dis 1989:2(suppl1):S28-34.
CDC. Toxic-shock syndrome United States. MMWR 1990;39:421-24.
CDC. Toxic-shock syndrome-United States. MMWR 1980:29-30.
Schuchat A, Broome CV. Toxic Shock Syndrome and Tampons. Epidemiologic Reviews 1991:13:99-112.