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Walmart Aromatherapy Spray Linked to Deadly Bacterial Outbreak: CDC
The recalled Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones was contaminated with Burkholderia Pseudomallei, which led to at least 4 infections, including 2 deaths, according to a March 2022 report published in The New England Journal of Medicine . The NEJM report followed a months-long CDC investigation which identified a multi-state outbreak of melioidosis, the illness caused by B. Pseudomallei bacteria.
During the investigation, CDC found at least 4 non-travel-associated cases in Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas, which were caused by the same strain of bacteria found in the contaminated Walmart aromatherapy spray. All 4 patients had a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, and nausea.
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Melioidosis Cases Linked to Better Homes and Gardens Aromatherapy Spray
In the first case identified by the CDC, a 5-year-old Georgia boy was admitted to an ER in July 2021 after several days of illness. He was vomiting, weak, had a sore throat, high heart rate, and a fever of over 102 F. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was administered steroids and remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, the boy failed to improve and died 4 days after being hospitalized. An autopsy found COVID-19 in his lungs and upper airways, as well as B. pseudomallei in his lungs, liver, spleen, and brain. This finding launched the CDC investigation.
The boy's family hadn’t traveled outside the U.S., so investigators took samples from the water and soil outside the home, which failed to produce results. Since B. pseudomallei can be aerosolized and inhaled, CDC began testing products found inside the victim's home.
Three months later, investigators identified B. pseudomallei in the aromatherapy spray, which helped them solve 3 other cases which occurred earlier that year. Each of the patients had the same bacteria strain found in the spray.
In Texas, a 4-year-old girl was admitted to a hospital ER with vomiting and a fever of over 103 F. Doctors thought she had a urinary tract infection (UTI) and treated her with antibiotics. She was subsequently hospitalized with septic shock and survived; however, 3 months later, she still needed to use a wheelchair and was nonverbal, according to the CDC.
Investigators later confirmed that her family had used the Walmart aromatherapy spray inside their home. The families of both the girl in Texas and the boy in Georgia said they sometimes used the spray on pillows and bedding.
The other two patients were 53-year-old adults. In one case, a Minnesota man went to the hospital with weakness and confusion. He developed a fever of 104 F and severe hip pain. 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.
What is Burkholderia Pseudomallei?
Burkholderia pseudomallei is a rare bacteria that causes melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, an infectious disease that can infect humans or animals. The infection is spread to humans and animals through direct contact with a contaminated source.
Melioidosis is predominately a disease of tropical climates, especially in Southeast Asia and northern Australia where it is widespread. However, in addition being found in the recalled Walmart aromatherapy spray, B. pseudomallei was found in the environment along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in 2022.
What are the Symptoms of Melioidosis?
The symptoms of Burkholderia pseudomallei infection vary depending on the type of illness. Types of melioidosis include pulmonary (lung), bloodstream, local, and disseminated infections. It typically takes 2 to 4 weeks for symptoms to appear after exposure to the bacterium.
However, symptoms may take hours or even years to appear, and some people have the disease without having symptoms (asymptomatic).
The most common way B. pseudomallei identifies in humans is via a lung infection. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, leading to pneumonia or septic shock, a serious blood infection that can rapidly lead to death.
Symptoms of pulmonary infection may include:
- Cough with normal sputum or no sputum, called a "nonproductive cough"
- Chest pain during breathing
- High fever
- Headache and general muscle soreness
- Weight loss
Without prompt medical treatment, a pulmonary infection can progress to an infection of the bloodstream called septicemia (aka septic shock), the most serious form of melioidosis. Septic shock typically occurs rapidly, although it may develop more gradually in certain patients. Symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Breathing problems
- Shortness of breath
- Upper abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle tenderness
- Sores with pus on the skin or internally in the liver, spleen, muscle, or prostate
This form of melioidosis infection involves the skin and organs just under the skin. Localized infections can spread to the bloodstream, and bloodstream infections can cause local infections. Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain or swelling in a contained (localized) area, such as the parotid glands
- Ulcerations or abscesses on, or just below, the skin
Sores from a disseminated melioidosis infection form in more than one organ, with symptoms including:
- Weight loss
- Stomach or chest pain
- Muscle or joint pain
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What Kills Burkholderia Pseudomallei?
Burkholderia Pseudomallei is a stubborn, potentially deadly infection that causes pneumonia, abscesses and, in the most severe cases, organ failure. Without treatment, it can kill within 48 hours.
B. pseudomallei is naturally resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. However, with good supporting care and access to proper medications, fatalities drop to around 1 in 10, and most healthy adults are able to survive an infection with good care. Otherwise, death sets in quickly.
"There are many who have been treated with ineffective antibiotics for a period," says Dr. Direk Limmathurotsakul, a microbiologist with the University of Oxford and Mahidol University in Bangkok. But by the time the disease is confirmed as melioidosis, he notes, "most of the time, the patient has already passed away."
If you purchased Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray that is affected by this recall, the CDC recommends that you follow these steps:
- Stop use immediately.
- Limit your contact with the bottle as you double-bag the product in Ziploc bags and place it in a small cardboard box and return it to a Walmart store. Do not throw it away in the regular trash.
- Wash all sheets and linens that were sprayed with the product. Wash your hands after handling them. Dry these items completely in a hot dryer.
- Use undiluted Pine-Sol or a similar disinfectant to wipe down all counters and surfaces that might have the spray on them. Wash your hands after this process.
- If you have used the product in the last 3 weeks and have a fever or other symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
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Get a Free Burkholderia Pseudomallei Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Burkholderia Pseudomallei Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new confirmed cases in all 50 states.
Free Burkholderia Pseudomallei Lawsuit Evaluation: Again, If you or a loved one developed a Burkholderia Pseudomallei infection after using Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones purchased at Walmart, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to financial compensation by filing a Burkholderia Pseudomallei Lawsuit and our law firm can help.