CDC emphasized that consumers should not pour the contents down the drain or throw the bottle in the trash. Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacteria that cause melioidosis, does not normally live in soil and water in the United States. If the spray bottles end up in landfills, the bacteria could become established and cause future melioidosis cases in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed that bacteria in a Better Homes & Gardens aromatherapy spray in a Georgia melioidosis patient’s home genetically matches the bacterial strains in the patient, and three other patients in Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas infected since March.
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 naturally occurs, such as parts of South and Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It is also occasionally found in the Americas (e.g., Brazil, Mexico, 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.
CDC announced Friday that a bottle of the Better Homes & Gardens aromatherapy spray in “Lavender & Chamomile with Gemstones” scent had tested positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacteria that causes melioidosis. But the final step in the investigation, being reported today, was to confirm the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria in the spray and in the patients was the same. This allows CDC to confirm the spray or one of its ingredients caused the four melioidosis infections.
“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,” said Inger Damon, MD, PhD, director of CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. “CDC scientists and our partners found the proverbial needle in the haystack.”
With the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Walmart, CDC has contacted the manufacturer in India to determine whether ingredients from the implicated spray were used in any other products. CDC scientists are working to assess the extent of contamination in other bottles and whether other scents may also be contaminated. Since Friday, CDC testing of an additional bottle of the spray has tested positive for the bacteria.
“Our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted by this situation,” said Damon. “We at CDC have been very concerned to see these serious related illness spread across time and geography. That is why our scientists have continued to work tirelessly to try to find the potential source for the melioidosis infections in these patients. We hope this work can help protect other people who may have used this spray.”
Anyone who has a bottle of Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Aromatherapy Spray with Gemstones or other scents in the same product line purchased from Walmart online or in these Walmart stores between February and Oct. 21, 2021, should stop using it immediately and follow the steps listed on CDC’s website to safely return the product to Walmart. CPSC and Walmart recalled about 3,900 bottles of aromatherapy spray on Oct. 22. Walmart is offering consumers a refund and a $20 gift card for its return.
CDC recommends that anyone who has this aromatherapy spray in their home:
- 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 in the last 7 days, your doctor may recommend that you get antibiotics (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent infection.
CDC is working with Walmart to ensure the returned bottles are disposed of properly and safely.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention