CDC lab tests find Better Homes and Gardens aromatherapy sold at Walmart may contain potentially fatal bacteria

Minnesotan among four nationwide who became ill from sme type of bacteria; residents of Georgia and Kansas died
“Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones" may contain potentially perilous bacteria.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Lab tests have determined that an aromatherapy spray sold at some Walmart stores and the chain’s website contains the same type of bacteria that sickened four people in the United States, including one in Minnesota, this year — and two died.

The spray, “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones,” was found Oct. 6 in the home of a Georgia resident who became ill with melioidosis in late July and died, according to an alert Friday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The CDC, which conducted the tests, is continuing testing to see whether the genetic fingerprint of the Burkholderia pseudomallei in the bottle matches those of the bacteria identified in the four patients – one each in Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Minnesota. In addition to the Georgia death, the Kansas resident died.

The contaminated spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores and on Walmart’s website between February and Oct. 21, when Walmart pulled remaining bottles of the spray and related products from store shelves and its website.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart are issuing a recall for the lavender and chamomile room spray and five other scents in the same product line. Investigation continues into whether other related scents and brands may pose a risk.

The CDC recommends that anyone who has this aromatherapy spray in their home should:

  • Stop using this product immediately. Do not open the bottle. Do not throw away or dispose of the bottle in the regular trash.
  • Double bag the bottle in clean, clear zip-top bags and place in a small cardboard box. Return the bagged and boxed product to a Walmart store.
  • Wash sheets or linens that the product may have been sprayed on using normal laundry detergent and dry completely in a hot dryer; bleach can be used if desired.
  • Wipe down counters and surfaces that might have the spray on them with undiluted Pine-Sol or similar disinfectant.
  • Limit how much you handle the spray bottle and wash hands thoroughly after touching the bottle or linens. If you used gloves, wash hands afterward.
  • If you have used the product within the past 21 days and have fever or other melioidosis symptoms, seek medical care and tell your doctor you were exposed to the spray. If you do not have symptoms but were exposed to the product during the past seven days, your doctor may recommend that you get antibiotics (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent infection.

The CDC has been testing blood samples from the patients, as well as soil, water and consumer products from in and around the four patients’ homes since the agency began receiving samples in May.

A sample of the Better Homes & Gardens spray tested positive this week. The genetic fingerprint of the bacteria that sickened the four patients is similar to that of strains usually found in South Asia; the aromatherapy spray was made in India.

The CDC is coordinating with state health departments in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas to try to determine whether the other three patients also may have used this or similar products.

“We at CDC have been very concerned to see these serious related illness spread across time and geography,” said Dr. Inger Damon, director of CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, which manages melioidosis.

That is why our scientists have continued to work tirelessly to try to find the potential source for the melioidosis infections in these patients.”

Melioidosis is a rare but serious disease in the United States, with about 12 cases reported annually. Worldwide, most cases are in people who live in or have traveled to areas where the bacteria occurs naturally, such as parts of South and Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It also is found occasionally in the Americas, such as Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Melioidosis causes a wide range of symptoms that can be confused with other common illnesses, like flu or a cold. Person-to-person spread is extremely rare.

More information about melioidosis is on the CDC website.

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