- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Bacteria in a Better Homes & Gardens aromatherapy spray genetically matches the bacterial strains in four patients who developed an infectious disease, including two who died, typically found in tropical climates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. 

A bottle of the BHG aromatherapy spray in “Lavender & Chamomile with Gemstones” scent had tested positive for a bacteria that causes melioidosis, which can infect humans and animals. 

Since the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria in the spray matches the four patients, the CDC can confirm the spray or one of its ingredients is behind the 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 Dr. Inger Damon, director of CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, in a statement. “CDC scientists and our partners found the proverbial needle in the haystack.”

The contaminated spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores and on the company’s website between February and Oct. 21, according to the CDC. 

Walmart has pulled the products from its store shelves and its website. The retailer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have issued a recall for the lavender and chamomile room spray and five other scents belonging to the same product line: lemon and mandarin, lavender, peppermint and lime and eucalyptus. 

Walmart and the CPSC recalled about 3,900 bottles of aromatherapy spray on Friday. Walmart is also giving customers a refund and $20 gift card for the returned sprays. 

The CDC said it has contacted the manufacturer in India to see if ingredients from the spray were used in any other products. The agency is investigating how far the contamination has spread and if other scents have been affected. So far, an additional bottle of the spray has tested positive for the bacteria since Friday. 

Anyone with a bottle of BHG Lavender & Chamomile Aromatherapy Spray with Gemstones and other scents from the same product line bought from Walmart between February and Oct. 21 should stop using the product immediately and safely return the product to the retailer, the CDC said. The product should be double-bagged in a clean, clear zip-top bag and placed in a small cardboard box and returned to a Walmart store. 

Those who have used the product in the last three weeks and experienced a fever or other melioidosis symptoms such as cough, chest pain and respiratory distress should seek medical attention and let the doctors know of their exposure to the spray, the CDC said. 

The public health agency stressed that consumers should not pour the spray contents down the drain or trash the bottle since the bacteria that causes melioidosis does not usually live in soil and water in the U.S. The bacteria, Burkholderia pseudomallei, could “become established” and cause future melioidosis cases in the U.S. if the spray bottles end up in landfills rather than disposed of properly. 

Each year, the U.S. reports about a dozen cases of melioidosis although mostly among travelers and immigrants traveling from places where the disease is common. Melioidosis is primarily widespread in Southeast Asia and northern Australia and can spread through contact with contaminated water and soil. But there have been cases of the disease in the U.S. with no history of travel to areas where the disease thrives. 

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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