A popular rumor circulated online states that a woman died due to Leptospirosis, which was contracted from drinking out of a soda can covered in rat urine.
While the scenario is technically possible, there is no evidence it ever happened.
Let’s take a look at the story being passed around on social networks:
On Sunday a family went to picnic with a few drinks in tin cans. Monday, two family members were admitted to the hospital and placed in Intensive Care Unit. He died on Wednesday. Autopsy results concluded it was Leptospirosis. The virus was stuck to the tin cans and consumed, without the use of glasses / cups. Test results showed that the tin was contaminated because mice urinated on them, and then it dried. The urine contained Leptospira. I Highly recommend to rinse the parts evenly on all soda cans before drinking it. Cans are usually stored in the warehouse and delivered direct to retail stores without cleaning. A study shows that the top of all beverage cans are more contaminated than public toilets (full of germs and bacteria.)So, clean it with water before drinking in order to prevent this from occurring.
The above story contains tell-tale signs of an urban myth in that it takes true elements and blends them with a story that has no sources and is impossible to verify. The story is used as a warning or to make a statement.
- Rat urine itself isn’t toxic. Urine from diseased rats potentially could be.
- Leptospira must stay moist to survive, so it’s highly improbable that a dry soda can would contain a live specimen.
- No names or sources are cited in the account above.
- No news stories matching the above account have been found.
- The same story has been circulating and evolving for at least 10 years.
Cans are Dirty
Even without the above warning, I have always been diligent about rinsing off the tops of soda cans, due to a personal experience and not because of rat urine. During a stop at a local warehouse when I was young, I noticed a man walking across a palettes of soda cans, and immediately thought of what could be on the bottom of his shoes. This one experience made me realize that you just never know where those cans have been.
It’s good idea to clean the tops of soda cans before putting them to your mouth, but concerns of getting Leptospirosis based on the tale above are unfounded.
Here are some other tall tales, with similar vague traits:
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