NEW YORK — US health officials may have solved the mystery of how four people in different states contracted a serious tropical illness even though none had traveled internationally: an aromatherapy spray imported from India.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that investigators found the same type of bacteria that causes the disease, melioidosis, in a spray bottle found in one of the patients’ homes.

Four people were from Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas. Two of them, a child in Georgia, died.


The agency said it was conducting tests to confirm that the bacteria in the bottle were the same as those seen in four patients. It had earlier said that laboratory analyzes showed that all four infections were closely related.

The spray found in a Georgia patient’s house was made in India. The genetic profile of the bacteria in the bottle is similar to strains commonly found in South Asia, the agency said.

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The CDC said the contaminated product is called “Better Homes and Gardens Lavender and Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstone.” It was sold for $4 in 55 Walmart stores and on Walmart’s website starting February through Thursday. contacted Walmart Canada, which said it does not sell the product.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall Friday for 3,900 bottles of the spray in six fragrances. Officials are investigating whether other fragrances and brands may pose a risk.

Walmart issued a statement Friday saying the company took immediate action when federal agencies told the retailer about its findings.

Melioidosis is rare in the United States, with about 12 cases reported annually. People can get it through direct contact with contaminated soil and water. The CDC said the infection can be curable if caught early and treated properly.