Federal authorities warned Friday that a rare bacterial infection that has killed two people was linked to an aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart.
Earlier this year, a total of four people in four states were infected with a rare tropical disease called melioidosis. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found they were exposed to bacteria using a gemstone aromatherapy spray infused with Better Homes & Gardens’ lavender and chamomile essential oil.
The $ 4 indoor spray was sold in about 55 Walmart stores and online earlier this year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
On Friday, the CPSC recalled approximately 3,900 bottles sold this year.
The infections first baffled CDC researchers when four unrelated individuals fell ill with melioidosis, a hard-to-diagnose infection caused by bacteria most commonly found in South Asia.
But none of the victims traveled abroad. And they lived in four different states: Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas. Business also stretched out for several months, from March to July.
But genetic sequencing of the strains of bacteria showed that the cases were somehow closely related.
In August, the CDC issued a warning that finding a source could be a problem because melioidosis can cause illness in two to three weeks. Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria are commonly found in moist soil and water, but are also found in contaminated wet food.
CDC investigators continued their search. They took soil and water samples near the victims’ houses. They also tested the products found inside.
And in early October, they found a likely source at the victim’s home in Georgia.
It was the liquid inside a small glass bottle of aromatherapy.
Made in India.
The CPSC’s revocation notice highlights the potential hazard by requiring the product to be returned to a Walmart store only after placing the spray bottle in two resealable plastic bags and then in a small cardboard box.