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Source of Bacterial Outbreak Identified as Walmart Product

Melioidosis is a rare bacterial infection within the United States, with only about 12 cases per year, which are usually associated with travelers and immigrants from areas of the world where the disease is prevalent.  When a clustered outbreak occurred in the U.S. in 2021, there was reason for concern. In the U.S., Melioidosis, sometimes known as Whitmore’s disease, is usually associated with people who have traveled to Southeast Asia and Australia. Yet from March to August of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified four cases of this disease that did not seem to have any obvious link to Asia or Australia, yet were genetically similar.

People are typically infected with Melioidosis by direct contact with contaminated soil and water. This infection may begin with a fever and lead to: localized infection, pulmonary infection, bloodstream infection, or disseminated infection. Please see the CDC website for a detailed symptom list ( https://www.cdc.gov/melioidosis/symptoms/index.html ). With early diagnosis, this disease can be treated with an appropriate antibiotic.

Analysis of the bacteria that cause the illnesses in these patients, Burkholderia pseudomallei, showed a high degree of genetic similarity between all four and therefore had a likely common source for all four cases.  With this information in hand, the CDC began their detective work and discovered a bottle of aromatherapy spray in the home of one patient from Georgia, which contained B. pseudomallei with high genetic similarity to the bacteria isolated from the patients. This product had been purchased from Walmart.  As of November 2, 2021, Walmart began a recall of the “Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray”, which was manufactured in India. There were approximately 3900 bottles sold through Walmart.

According to the CDC, people who still have the “Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy” in their homes, should do the following:

1)      Do not open or throw away the bottle.

2)      Double bag the bottle in sealed plastic bags and return it to Walmart.

3)      Wash exposed sheets and linens with detergent and dry on hot.

4)      Use disinfectant to wipe counters.

5)      Wash hands thoroughly after touching anything that may have been contaminated with the spray.

6)      If you have used the aromatherapy spray in the last 21 days and develop symptoms (see above), seek medical attention immediately. If exposed in that past 7 days seek medical attention immediately.



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