Humans weren’t the only ones that lost their lives after being exposed to an aromatherapy spray linked to fatal cases of a rare tropical disease. The disease also killed a family’s pet raccoon in Texas.
Exposure to a room spray containing “gemstones” that was sold at Walmart last year led to the death of one person in Georgia and another in Kansas, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both developed melioidosis, a difficult-to-diagnose infection caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. There were at least two other cases in Minnesota and Texas that all had been genetically linked to the Georgia case.
A report published Thursday by the CDC determined the otherwise healthy pet raccoon of the Texas patient also died from exposure to the spray. This is the first reported melioidosis case documented in a raccoon. It is also the first animal case linked to this multistate outbreak.
Typically, the only time doctors in the US see these kinds of infections follow a person’s trip to the tropics. The doctors were at first mystified because none of the patients had taken such a trip. Investigators determined what the patients had in common was exposure to Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, which had been manufactured in India.
The raccoon had broken a bottle of the aromatherapy spray and walked through the liquid. On April 3 last year, about 2 weeks after it had the accident with the bottle, it showed signs of what the CDC described as “acute neurological symptoms consistent with neurologic melioidosis” and it died three days later.
The report says the family wrapped the pet in a cloth robe and buried it on the family’s property.
Because the soil in Texas is considered a suitable environment for the bacteria, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Environmental Protection Agency went to the family’s property to exhume the raccoon and run tests on its body. They also ran tests on the soil around the burial site.
Samples taken from where the raccoon tested positive for the DNA of the bacteria, but there was no viable bacteria, and there was no environmental contamination.
Typically, melioidosis does not transfer from animals to humans, the CDC said, but it can infect a wide range of animals including reptiles, fish and other mammals. Since there wasn’t any environmental contamination, the bacteria should not have spread to other animals from the burial.
In October last year, the CDC instructed people to stop using the product immediately and gave specific directions for getting rid of the suspected aromatherapy products that included the lavender scent and any of the other recalled scents with Gemstones (including Lemon & Mandarin, Lavender, Peppermint, Lime & Eucalyptus, and Sandalwood & Vanilla).