New information has emerged about the death of a five-year-old Georgia child in 2021 from a tropical bacteria linked to an aromatherapy room spray sold at Walmart.
In a presentation Tuesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ICEID), hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Jessica Pavlick of the Georgia Department of Public Health made the link between the boy’s death and the now-recalled aromatherapy room sprays.
The tropical soil bacterium that caused the boy’s fatal infection has been found in environmental samples across southern Mississippi in the year since his death. The bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is thought to be endemic to the Gulf Coast region and a continuing threat to people living there.
Bacteria that Caused the Death of a Boy
For years, CDC scientists suspected that B. Instead of being brought in by imported animals and household products, as well as travelers and migrants, pseudomallei may already be present in soil and water in the continental United States.
In recent years, the United States has seen an average of 12 cases of B. Melioidosis is caused by a pseudomallei infection.
The majority of melioidosis cases have been linked to travel, leading CDC researchers to believe that B. pseudomallei had become a permanent resident of the area, rather than a passing through.
It wasn’t until 2022, when an unexplained case in southern Mississippi occurred just miles away from another mysterious case from the previous year, that investigators finally caught B. pseudomallei in environmental samples from the United States
Though melioidosis cases are uncommon, including in areas where B. Pseudomallei is most common in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It is difficult to diagnose and treat, and it has the potential to be fatal.
As a result, disease awareness and rapid diagnosis are critical. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the Georgia 5-year-old.
How Melioidosis Killed 4 People in the United States
The first melioidosis case occurred in March 2021, when a Kansas adult died as a result of the infection. In May, two other cases occurred: a Minnesota adult who survived and a four-year-old girl in Texas who suffered brain damage.
Despite knowing that the cases were linked and that an imported product or animal was most likely to blame, state and CDC health investigators were unable to identify a common source. According to Pavlick’s presentation, the answer was revealed by the boys’ tragic death.
Pavlick stated that the boy became ill on July 7, a week after the CDC issued a melioidosis alert, with fever, weakness, sore throat, nausea, and vomiting. She stated that the boy had no underlying medical conditions and was previously thought to be healthy.
By July 12, the boy had been admitted to a local hospital and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, which may have obscured his melioidosis. He was taken to a children’s hospital the next day for possible respiratory failure and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. The next day, he was intubated. His condition deteriorated, and on July 16, the boy died from his injuries.
Melioidosis has been dubbed the “great mimicker” due to the variety and vagueness of its symptoms, which can be similar to other serious conditions such as tuberculosis. The bacteria can infect people in a variety of ways, resulting in a wide range of symptoms.
Infections can occur when people consume contaminated soil, water, or food, breathe in contaminated dust or water droplets, or have a skin break that comes into contact with contaminated soil or water.
It should be noted that B. Many common antibiotics are resistant to pseudomallei, and delaying treatment can allow the bacteria to spread further in the body, leading to a deadly disseminated infection like the one seen in the boy.
Following the boy’s death, his family agreed to allow state and CDC investigators to test family members, environmental samples, and household products to determine how the boy contracted the deadly bacteria.
Two of the four family members tested positive for B antibodies. pseudomallei, implying previous exposure On August 10, investigators collected 55 household product samples and 38 environmental samples from the family’s sprawling rural estate. All of them tested negative for B. pseudomallei.
The family agreed to let the investigators return on October 6, at which point they tested nine more environmental samples and 14 more household products.
Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, made in India, was one of those second-round products that tested positive for B. pseudomallei, a room spray sold at Walmart in 2021 that caused the bacteria to spread.
The CDC confirmed the discovery on October 26 and announced that the spray was the source of the bacterial strain in all four melioidosis cases, prompting the recall.