Rumor: Killer Rat Urine on Soda Cans

A popular rumor circulating online states that a woman died due to Leptospirosis, which was contracted from drinking out of a soda can covered in rat urine.

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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.
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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.

Consider:

  • 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.

Variation #2

A second variation has been spotted circulating via email. This version includes a few details, such as “Texas” but still lacks enough information to verify the narrative. It also cites a study by the vague “NYCU” which Yahoo! noted in 2010 stands for several organizations – none of which are related to scientific research: New York City Underground, News You Can Use (from the U.S. News & World Report) and North Yorkshire Credit Union in the UK.

VERY IMPORTANT PLEASE READ

This incident happened in Texas.
A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of cola which she put into the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken to the hospital and placed in Intensive Care Unit. She died on Wednesday. The autopsy concluded she died of Leptospirosis. This was traced to the can of cola she drank from, not using a glass. Tests showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to thoroughly was the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them. The cans are typically stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without being cleaned.

A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated that public toilets (i.e.) Full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting them to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

Please forward this message to all the people you care about.

Cans are Dirty

Even without the above warning, this author has 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.

Bottom Line

It’s probably a 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.

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