CDC testing has confirmed that an aromatherapy spray or one of its ingredients caused melioidosis infections in four people, including a Georgian who died of the rare disease.
The bacteria found in the spray in the Georgian’s home genetically matched the strains found in that individual, as well as patients in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas, the Atlanta-based public health agency said Tuesday.
All four contracted melioidosis, which is caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria. The DNA fingerprint of the bacteria in the Better Homes & Gardens spray and in the patients was the same, the CDC said.
Like the Georgian, the infected individual in Kansas died, while the individuals in Minnesota and Texas survived. The suspected link to the aromatherapy spray, now confirmed, was announced Friday by the CDC.
The contaminated spray was sold at some Walmart stores and on Walmart’s website between February and last Thursday, when the giant retailer pulled remaining bottles and related products from store shelves and its website. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart recalled about 3,900 bottles of aromatherapy spray.
The state’s Department of Public Health has released no details about the Georgian who died of the disease.
“When you think about the thousands of things people come in contact with around their homes, it’s remarkable we were able to identify the source and confirm it in the lab,” Dr. Inger Damon, director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a statement Tuesday. “CDC scientists and our partners found the proverbial needle in the haystack.”
The CDC has contacted the spray’s manufacturer in India to determine what ingredients were used in any other products. Since Friday, an additional bottle of the spray has tested positive for the bacteria.
Melioidosis is a rare but serious disease, with about 12 cases reported annually in the United States. Most of the U.S. cases are connected with exposure during travel, the CDC said.
Worldwide, most cases are in people who live in or have traveled to areas where the bacteria naturally occurs, such as parts of South Asia, Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It is also occasionally found in the Americas, in places such as Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The disease causes a wide range of symptoms that can be confused with certain common illnesses, like flu or a cold.
Person-to-person spread is extremely rare.
The CDC recommends that anyone who has this aromatherapy spray in their home should take the following steps:
** 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, then dry them completely in a hot dryer; bleach can be used if desired.
** Wipe down counters and surfaces that might have the spray on them, using undiluted Pine-Sol or a 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 your 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 in the last seven days, your doctor may recommend that you get antibiotics (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent infection.
For more information about melioidosis, please go to