Insane World

Rare infectious disease that killed two people traced to aromatherapy room spray

A rare mysterious tropical infection that had sickened people in the states of Minnesota and Kansas, as well as Texas has been traced to an aromatherapy room spray.

They all were infected with a bacteria known as Burkholderia pseudomallei, and the disease it causes is called melioidosis, marked by non-specific symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue and nausea. It’s most commonly seen in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Northern Australia, and is found in soil and contaminated water.

Usually, when Americans are diagnosed with melioidosis, it’s associated with travel. But these cases popped up in the middle of a pandemic, when international travel was virtually nonexistent. And none of the affected families had traveled.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a heath alert last June, when the three cases in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas were linked. By the time they found the source this month, it had made four people sick and killed two of them.

The CDC teams doubled down on their searches, going through all the products they could find that might possibly be a source of the bacteria.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test of the air freshener bottle came out positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei.

The culprit ‘Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones’ was manufactured in India and sold at Walmart.

It’s not clear which ingredient in the spray may be the contaminant. It might be the “gemstones”.

“Rocks are collected from the environment and there’s bacteria in the environment, so if the rocks weren’t sterilized before they went in, that’s a possibility,” CDC epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer McQuiston said.

“The other thing is the possibility that another component was contaminated and the rocks made a little micro-environment in that bottle for the bacteria to grow in,” she added.

“So the significance of the rocks we don’t really know yet, but having rocks in a fragrance bottle is definitely unusual. So that’s something I think we’re interested in looking at.”