The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a now-recalled aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart or "one of its ingredients" is behind four cases of a rare and infectious disease, including two deaths.
Last week, the agency announced that a bottle of the Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones from the home of a Georgia resident tested positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei, which causes melioidosis, according to the CDC said.
Walmart removed the product from store shelves and put a register block in place at stores and online to prevent sales of the product after the agency began investigating four cases of melioidosis in the U.S., which had been reported in Kansas, Minnesota, Texas and Georgia. Two of the patients died, the CDC said.
On Tuesday, the agency discovered that the DNA fingerprint of bacteria found in the sample bottle of Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones genetically matched the bacterial strains in the Georgia resident along with three other patients that became ill with melioidosis earlier this year, according to the CDC.
As a result, the agency said it can "confirm the spray or one of its ingredients caused the four melioidosis infections."
Melioidosis is both difficult to diagnose and can be fatal, according to the recall notice posted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Inger Damon, director of CDC’s division of high-consequence pathogens and pathology, said the agency's latest discovery was like finding "the proverbial needle in the haystack."
"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 Damon.
The recall covers six different scents that were sold at more than 50 Walmart stores across 18 states and on the retailer's website. The spray bottles were available from February until late October.
However, after being alerted by federal health officials, Walmart says it "quickly enacted plans" to protect customers including preventing future sales and notifying each potentially impacted customer by email.
"Our sympathies go out to the four families that have been impacted by this situation," Walmart said in a statement. "Customer safety is always a top priority and as part of the recall we proactively put plans in action to notify customers and prevent further product sales while federal agencies continue their investigation."
The CPSC, Walmart and the CDC contacted the product manufacturer in India to see if the ingredients from the implicated spray were used in any other products, according to the agency.
There are about 12 cases of melioidosis reported in the U.S. every year, the CDC said. Most cases are discovered in people who live or travel to other parts of the world where the bacteria naturally occurs, such as parts of South and Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
The dangerous bacteria can cause a wide range of symptoms and can be confused with common illnesses such as the flu or a cold, according to the CDC.