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Room Fragrance Linked to Rare Tropical Infection

October 26, 2021

Room fragrance is often touted as a solution to odors in restrooms and other facility areas. However, a lavender-scented aromatherapy spray has been linked to a rare tropical disease that has sickened people in three states, CNN reports.

Four people were infected and two died of melioidosis, a disease caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei which is found in soil and contaminated water in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Northern Australia. Americans diagnosed with melioidosis typically contract the disease from travel. But these cases popped up in the middle of a pandemic when international travel was virtually nonexistent. And none of the affected families—who live in Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas—had traveled.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a heath alert last June, when the cases were linked. By the time the CDC determined the source this month, it had made four people sick and killed two of them.

The room fragrance spray, Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, was manufactured in India and sold at Walmart. CDC epidemiologists say they are not sure which ingredient in the spray may be the contaminant. It may be the “gemstones,” which are likely unsterilized rocks in the spray bottle. Or perhaps the rocks created a micro-environment in the bottle for the bacteria to grow in.

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