Four people, all from different states, came down with the same serious tropical disease though none of them had travelled internationally.
The suspect? An aromatherapy spray imported from India.
Two our of the four were fatalities, one being a child from Georgia. The rest of the victims are from Kansas, Minnesota and Texas.
The Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the main link was found in the same type of bacteria in a spray bottle found in one of their homes.
They identified the disease as melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease. Usually, when Americans are diagnosed with melioidosis, it’s associated with travel.
But these cases popped up in the middle of a pandemic, when international travel was virtually nonexistent, and none of the affected families had traveled.
The disease is actually most commonly seen in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Northern Australia, and is found in soil and contaminated water.
The spray, “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones,” could be bought at Walmart for a measly $4.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall Friday for 3,900 bottles of the spray in six scents. Officials are investigating whether other scents and brands may pose a risk.
Walmart issued a statement Friday, saying the company took immediate action when federal agencies told the retailer of their findings.
“Our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted by this situation,” says Inger Damon, MD, PhD, who heads the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
CNN reported that the CDC recommended the following for anyone who has the aromatherapy in their homes:
- Stop using the product immediately. Do not open the bottle. Do not 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 boxed item.
- Wash sheets and linens of anything that the product may have been sprayed on, using normal laundry detergent and dry completely in a hot dryer. Bleach may be used, if desired.
- Wipe down all counters and surfaces that may have spray on them with disinfectant.
Limit how much you handle the spray bottle and wash hands thoroughly after touching the bottle.
- If you have used the product within the last 21 days, and have a fever or other melioidosis symptoms, seek medical care and explain you were exposed to the spray.
Cheap fragrances might look tempting at drugstores, but you can never be too careful!