Federal authorities warned Friday that a rare bacterial infection that killed two people has been tied to an aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart.
A total of four people in four states were infected earlier this year by the rare tropical disease called melioidosis. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered they were exposed to the bacteria by the Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones.
The $4 room spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores and online earlier this year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The CPSC on Friday issued a recall for the approximately 3,900 bottles that were sold this year.
The infections at first stumped CDC investigators when four people with no apparent connection came down with melioidosis, a difficult-to-diagnose infection caused by bacteria most commonly found in South Asia.
But none of the victims had traveled overseas. And they lived in four different states: Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas. The cases also were spread out over several months, from March to July.
But genetic sequencing of the bacteria strains showed the cases were somehow closely linked.
The CDC issued an alert in August warning that finding the source could be a challenge because melioidosis can take two to three weeks to make someone sick. The bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei are normally found in moist soil and water, but also have been found in contaminated wet products.
CDC investigators kept searching. They took samples from the soil and water near the victims’ homes. They also tested products found inside.
And in early October they found the likely source in the home of a victim in Georgia.
It was the liquid inside the aromatherapy’s small glass bottle.
The product was made in India.
The CPSC’s recall notice highlights the potential danger, instructing to return the product to a Walmart store only after placing the spray bottle inside two resealable plastic bags and then inside a small cardboard box.