Home Aromatherapy Spray Sold at Walmart Linked to Rare Bacterial Infection That Led to 2 Deaths
The mysterious deaths of two people from a rare bacterial infection are potentially linked to a home aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart, federal officials say.
After four people in four different states — including one child — were infected with a rare tropical disease called melioidosis, a Centers for Disease Control investigation found that the cases are potentially linked to Better Homes & Gardens' Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones. Testing showed that a bottle of the spray, found at the home of one of the patients, contained the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei.
The cases of melioidosis initially baffled CDC investigators, as the bacteria is most commonly found in tropical climates like South Asia and the people infected had not left the country. People infected with melioidosis can develop swelling, fever, weight loss, nervous system infections and seizures, among other symptoms, and it can quickly turn fatal. Of the four cases found in Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Minnesota, half of the people infected died.
Walmart said Friday that they are recalling the approximately 3,900 bottles of the Better Homes & Gardens-branded Gem Room Sprays sold in the U.S. in six different scents and have pulled the product from their shelves. The CDC has also instructed anyone with the product to stop using it "immediately," and to double bag it in zip-top bags before returning it to a Walmart store.
"We are deeply concerned that there may be a connection between this product and this rare bacteria," Walmart said in a statement shared with PEOPLE. "Our sympathies and concerns are with the four families that have been impacted."
In a statement, Better Homes & Gardens said that they are "deeply concerned" to learn that the product contained a "dangerous bacteria."
"We take issues of consumer safety extremely seriously and urge anyone who may have purchased these products to contact Walmart immediately and follow the CDC guidelines contained in the recall notice. Our focus now is on assisting Walmart as much as possible with their recall efforts to ensure these products are returned safely."
Both Better Homes & Gardens and PEOPLE are owned by Meredith Corp.
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The CDC began investigating the cases of melioidosis in May using blood samples from the patients and pulling soil, water and consumer product samples from their homes. On Oct. 6, they found a bottle of the room spray, which was made in India, in the home of the Georgia patient. Testing this week showed that the spray contained Burkholderia pseudomallei, and the CDC is looking into whether the other three patients also used the spray.
"Our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted by this situation," said Dr. Inger Damon, director of CDC's Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. "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."
For inquiries and returns, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, contact Walmart at 800-925-6278 from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. CT, or online at www.walmart.com and click on "Product Recalls" for more information.
The recalled products and batch numbers are:
84140411420 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Lavender & Chamomile
84140411421 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Lemon and Mandarin
84140411422 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Lavender
84140411423 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Peppermint
84140411424 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Lime & Eucalyptus
84140411425 Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) Gem Room Spray Sandalwood and Vanilla