Contaminated Lavender Spray Led to 4 Illnesses, 2 Deaths: CDC - freetxp

Contaminated Lavender Spray Led to 4 Illnesses, 2 Deaths: CDC

March 3, 2022 — A lavender aromatherapy spray, which was imported from India and sold at Walmart last year, was contaminated with a deadly bacteria that led to four illnesses, including two deaths, according to a new report published in TheNew England Journal of Medicine.

The product — the Better Homes & Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray With Gemstones in the lavender and chamomile scent — had been sold at 55 Walmart stores and but has since been recalled.

The report comes after a months-long CDC investigation of several unrelated cases. The CDC found a multi-state outbreak of melioidosis, an uncommon infection caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomalleiwhich is typically found in soil and water in tropical and subtropical environments in parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Melioidosis is rarely diagnosed in the US, and even then, cases are typically linked to travel to tropical regions where the infection is endemic. During the investigation, the CDC found four non-travel-associated cases in Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas, which were caused by the same strain of bacteria found in the contaminated aromatherapy spray product.

If caught early, melioidosis can be treated with an IV of certain antibiotics, but the symptoms can be mistaken for other respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, the flu, and tuberculosis, according to NBC News. In the CDC’s new report, all four patients had a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, and nausea.

In the first case, a 5-year-old boy in Georgia went to an emergency department in July 2021 after several days of sickness. He was vomiting, weak, and had a sore throat, high heart rate, and fever over 102 F. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was given steroids and remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has been used to treat the coronavirus.

But he didn’t improve and died within 4 days of hospitalization. An autopsy detected the coronavirus in his lungs and upper airways, but it also found the Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria in his lungs, liver, splen, and brain. The finding sparked an investigation.

The family said they hadn’t traveled outside of the country, so CDC investigators took samples from the water and soil outside of the home, which didn’t show any results. Since the bacteria can be aerosolized and inhaled, investigators began testing dozens of products inside the home.

Three months later, in October, the CDC team found the bacteria in the aromatherapy spray, which helped them to solve three other cases that occurred in 2021. Each of the patients had the same bacteria strain found in the spray.

In Texas, a 4-year-old girl had a fever of more than 103 F and was vomiting. Doctors thought she had a urinary tract infection and treated her with antibiotics. She was hospitalized within days with septic shock. She survived, but 3 months later, she still needed to use a wheelchair and was nonverbal, the CDC report said.

The CDC investigators later confirmed that her family had the aromatherapy spray at home. The families of both the girl in Texas and the boy in Georgia said they sometimes used the spray on pillows and bedding, NBC News reported.

The other two patients were 53-year-old adults. In one case, a man in Minnesota went to the hospital with weakness and confusion. He developed a fever of 104 F and severe pain in one of his hips. He was discharged from the hospital, but his mental status hadn’t improved.

In the other case, a woman in Kansas was hospitalized with breathing problems and weakness. She went into septic shock and died 9 days later.

In late October, the CDC issued an alert about the aromatherapy spray, and days later, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a notice that Walmart would recall nearly 4,000 bottles of the product. The recall included the lavender and chamomile scent, as well as the lemon and mandarin, peppermint, lavender, lime and eucalyptus, and sandalwood and vanilla.

The products were sold by Walmart between February 2021 and October 2021 for about $4. The recall notice urged consumers to stop using the product right away and not open the bottle. People who still have the spray should put the bottle in a resealable bag, place it in a small cardboard box, and return the product to a Walmart store.

Consumers should also wash sheets or lines that the product was sprayed on, wipe down counters and surfaces that may have been exposed to the spray, and wash their hands thoroughly after handling the bottle or linens, the recall notice said.

“Consumers should not pour the contents down the drain or throw the bottle in the trash,” the CDC said. “If the spray bottles end up in landfills, the bacteria could become established and cause future melioidosis cases in the US CDC is working with Walmart to ensure the returned bottles are disposed of properly and safely.”


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