Thu, 02 Dec 2021

WASHINGTON D.C.: Walmart has pulled from its shelf an air freshener linked to two deaths.

The first patient to get sick in Kansas in March died from the disease, which is found in soil and contaminated water, causes non-specific symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue and nausea, and is most common in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Northern Australia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a heath warning in June when the three cases in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas were linked. But by the time the source was discovered this month, four people had been taken ill and two had died.

The trail went cold in Kansas, said CDC epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, who led the investigation.

"It really was a fishing expedition because we did not have any early clues to guide us in any direction," she told CNN.

Then in July, a patient died of melioidosis in Georgia, which was linked to the other three cases by genetic testing.

Afterwards, McQuiston added "the CDC tested several hundred specimens and it looked like it was coming to a dead end."

But they returned to the home of the last patient to look again for clues.

"And in that particular second search, they collected a specimen from an air freshener bottle that had not been collected the first time, and we got a positive PCR results for Burkholderia pseudomallei," McQuiston said.

The air freshener was sold as "Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones", manufactured in India and sold at Walmart, which recalled the product on October 22.

"We were all so relieved to have something that pointed to a source of infection, because our biggest worry was that whatever had caused infection in those four previous cases might still be out there posing a health risk to people," McQuiston said.

The CDC then linked the strain of bacteria to the patients in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota, but it is not clear which ingredient in the spray may be the contaminant.

"It might the gemstones. The same manufacturer made other scents using gemstones that the CDC will be examining," McQuiston added.

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