A southwest suburban teenager died suddenly. Now her family wants to warn others about what may have killed her. The family of 16-year-old Kelly Neff says her doctor told them she died from toxic shock syndrome. That''s a severe illness we haven''t heard much about lately.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, they do get occasional reports of toxic shock syndrome, but it is extremely rare.
Kyle McBain read from a statement Kelly Neff wrote for her MySpace web page. "Live your life to the fullest but make smart choices." Dozens of friends and classmates gathered at her Mokena home Wednesday night trying to deal with her sudden death on Tuesday.

"It seemed like the flu. Kids get sick and there was no indication that this was something as critical or serious as what it turned out to be," said Carl Agostin, uncle.

Pending the results of an autopsy, doctors told the family they believe it was toxic shock syndrome that killed the 16-year-old junior at Lincoln Way East High School. Her family says she was using a new brand of tampon for the first time and they believe that somehow led to her sudden illness and death.

Toxic shock syndrome first gained widespread attention after a large number of cases in the early 1980s. Since that time the FDA has mandated changes that have made women''s sanitary products more safe.

In 1980, according to the FDA, there were 813 cases of menstrual toxic shock syndrome. By 1998 that number was down to three.

Now, according to the CDC, toxic shock syndrome is reported in one or two women out of every 100,000 women, and 5 percent of those cases prove fatal.

Kelly Neff was an honor student with dreams of college and a career in fashion design. Her family now wants to get the message out about the dangers of toxic shock syndrome.

"It''s real. That''s all I know. I mean, it took a beautiful, young girl from us. These kids and women need to be educated that this is still an actual thing that can happen," said Cindy Gutowski, family friend.

In the early 1980s the large number of toxic shock cases led to a recall of one brand of tampons and warnings printed on the packages of all others.