CDC updates health warning for aromatherapy spray linked to fatal cases of rare disease

ByMaggie Fox, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Rare bacteria found in Walmart room spray linked to 2 deaths
Walmart has recalled its Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones after deadly bacteria was found in it.

Federal agencies updated recalls and warnings to doctors Wednesday about aromatherapy sprays that have been linked to fatal cases of a rare tropical disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said doctors should be on the lookout for symptoms of melioidosis -- a difficult-to-diagnose infection caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei -- and should ask patients about whether they've used certain sprays.

And people who have bought sprays containing "gemstones" should not throw them out but should pack them carefully and send them in for refunds, the CDC and the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

Last month, the CDC said it had traced the case of a fatal B. pseudomallei infection in Georgia to an aromatherapy spray sold by Walmart. Three other cases, in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas, had been genetically linked to the Georgia case and the patient in Kansas had also died.

The infection had mystified doctors because melioidosis, a tropical disease, is usually linked to travel and none of the infected people had traveled. Careful investigation implicated Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, which had been manufactured in India.

"Testing for the presence of B. pseudomallei is underway for the five other scents under the same brand with Gemstones including 'Lemon & Mandarin', 'Lavender', 'Peppermint', 'Lime & Eucalyptus', and 'Sandalwood & Vanilla'," the CDC said.

"This product was sold online nationwide through Walmart and distributed to a limited number of Walmart stores between February and October 21, 2021." In the meantime, people should not use those products, it said. The CPSC added the five additional scents to its recall this week - 3,900 bottles in total.

The CDC issued a fresh health alert for doctors and other clinicians to be on the lookout for people with symptoms including an acute or chronic localized infection that may include high fever, pain, headache, as well as abscesses in the liver, lung, spleen, and prostate. Patients should be asked about possible exposure to aromatherapy sprays including "being in the room while the product is being sprayed, having directly 'sniffed' or inhaled from the product bottle, having direct contact with an item (such as pillowcases or other linens) on which the product has been sprayed," the CDC added.

In October, the CDC gave specific instructions for getting rid of the suspect products.

"People who have the Better Homes & Gardens Aromatherapy Room Spray 'Lavender & Chamomile' with Gemstones product, or any of the other recalled scents with Gemstones (including Lemon & Mandarin, Lavender, Peppermint, Lime & Eucalyptus, and Sandalwood & Vanilla) in their homes should take the following precautions:

"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 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 PineSol or similar disinfectant.

"Limit direct handling of the spray bottle and wash hands thoroughly after touching the bottle or linens. If gloves were used, wash hands afterward.

"If you used the product within the past 21 days and develop a fever or other melioidosis symptoms, you should seek medical care and inform your doctor about your exposure to the spray. If you do not have symptoms but were exposed to the product in the last 7 days, your doctor may recommend that you get antibiotics (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent infection."

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