The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that the aromatherapy gemstone spray sold by Walmart was linked to four mysterious bacterial infection in four states. Two people died, one of them a child.
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Friday's announcement by the CDC was a relief from months of mystery. A bottle of aromatherapy room spray found in the Georgia home of a patient who had died of the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei caused the death of the patient. This dangerous microbe can be found in soil and water in subtropical and tropical climates like South Asia. When the bacterium is consumed or inhaled or enters a skin wound, it can cause a life-threatening but difficult-to-diagnose infection called melioidosis.
The CDC had identified the contaminated spray and Walmart and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of the Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential oil Infused Aromatherapy room Spray with Gemstones. This product is made in India. Walmart will give customers a $20 gift certificate to help them return the hazardous spray bottles.
Tuesday's confirmation by the CDC that the B. pseudomallei strain found in the spray was genetically identical to the strain that infected the Georgia patient who died and three others, was made public.
Melioidosis is a rare disease that occurs in the United States. However, they are usually due to recent travel to areas where the bacteria is naturally found. There were no travel links in the four cases that puzzled Georgia, Minnesota, Texas and Texas this year. The CDC quickly discovered that there was a connection between the cases.
In March, a Kansas adult was diagnosed with the first case. It ended up being fatal. The CDC issued a health alert on June 30 after officials discovered two additional cases of melioidosis that were not related to travel. They were a Minnesota adult and a Texas 4-year-old. Both of the victims survived. The CDC issued an update in August stating that a fourth death, this time in Georgia, was identified by a post-mortem analysis done in July. The CPSC recall indicates that the Georgia case was the one that resulted in death.
The Proverbial Needle In the Haystack
The CDC claims that whole-genome sequencing of bacteria performed previously by the agency showed that the B. pseudomallei strains found in each case closely matched each other. This was especially true for strains that are found in Asia, in particular South Asia. CDC investigators began to search for a common source by sampling soil, water and other products from the homes of the four patients.
Inger Damon (director of CDC's Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology), which manages melioidosis, said that "our hearts go out to those families that have been impacted." Alarmed by the bizarre cluster of cases, CDC ran to locate the source before anyone else became ill. Damon, after she confirmed Tuesday's link, said that it was difficult and how relieved she and her coworkers were to identify the source.
Damon stated, "When you consider the thousands of items people come into contact with around their home, it's amazing we were able identify the source and confirm that in the laboratory." "CDC scientists and partners found the needle in the haystack."
The CPSC notice states that Walmart will recall approximately 3,900 bottles Better Homes & Gardens Essential Oil-Infused Aromatherapy room spray with gemstones. It comes in six different scents. All scents will be recalled. The 5-ounce spray bottles, which were 5 oz in size, were sold only at 55 Walmart stores across the country (here's a listing of those stores) as well as online at walmart.com between February 2021 and October 2021. They were about $4.