Updated: Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010, 10:54 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010, 10:05 PM EDT
COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) - Toxic Shock Syndrome hasn't been in the headlines for years but it recently appeared in Columbus, Indiana, claiming the life of a young girl in her prime.
Amy Elifritz, a budding graphic design artist, died suddenly June 13 from multiple organ failure, respiratory distress and heart damage: the classic signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Her mother, Lisa, believes it was a tampon that caused her daughter's death.
Amy fit the description of a typical victim of toxic shock. She was young, just 20 years old, and menstruating.
Doctors understand how this deadly syndrome is born. TSS is caused by staphylococcus aureas, a virulent bacteria that needs blood and oxygen to live.
Super absorbent tampons may be the culprit.
If the tampons aren't changed every four to eight hours, there is a chance the staph begins to grow and, in turn, produces a deadly toxin that Amy's parents believe caused her body to shut down.
Data shows for every 100,000 tampon-using women, three to four may come down with toxic shock.
Here in Indiana, the State Department of Health reports two cases in 2008 and 16 cases between 1999 and 2008.
It's rare, but there are signs toxic shock may be making a comeback.
Researchers say girls are getting their periods at younger ages and are more likely to use tampons than previous generations.
Amy Elifritz's family simply wants answers and assurances that other young girls won't suffer the same fate by simply using a tampon.
Cases of toxic shock decreased suddenly in the 1980s after a tampon brand called "Rely" was taken off the market.
Thirty eight women died from TSS that year.
And there is a theory that tampon companies still use synthetic fibers and chlorine compounds instead of pure cotton, providing a capable host for the bacterium to grow.
Amy's sister has posted a note on Facebook explaining Amy's story. The note contains information about Toxic Shock and what to look for to prevent it.
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