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Home Hoaxes Leptospirosis Death Warning Hoax – Rat Urine on Soda Can Top

Leptospirosis Death Warning Hoax – Rat Urine on Soda Can Top

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on July 13, 2005

Outline:
Message that circulates via email and social media claims that a woman died after catching Leptospirosis from dried rat urine on the lid of a soda can.


Brief Analysis:
Leptospirosis is a real illness, but this message contains highly improbable and misleading information. The Leptospirosis Information Center dismisses the warning as fake.

Example:Leptospirosis Rat Urine Hoax

IMPORTANT PLEASE READ: Do Not Delete this message until it is extended to others ..
On Sunday , a family picnic, brought with them few drinks in tin.However, on Monday, two family members( who joined the picnic) were admitted to hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit space.One died on Wednesday.

Autopsy results concluded it hit Leptospirosis. The bacteria, known as LEPTOSPIRA interrogans, is stuck to the tin cans, and were drunk, without the use of glasses, cups or sip straws. Test results showed that the soda tin was infected from mice urine, and that had dried, the mice’ urine containing Leptospirosis.
It is highly recommended 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 putting it to your mouth in order to avoid contamination.
PLEASE SHARE FOR THE INFORMATION AND AWARENESS OF ALL,,ESP, YOUR LOVED ONES,

 

Example:
Subject: FW: Toxic cans!!!! Please Read!!!VERY IMPORTANT PLEASE READ

This incident happened in North Texas .

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

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to thoroughly wash 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 than 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.
(I JUST DID)

 

Example:
Subject: FW: Coke anyone?Charming……..

This incident happened recently in Belgium.

A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put in the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken into ICU and on Wednesday she died.

The autopsy revealed a certain Leptospirosis caused by the can of coke from which she had drunk straight out of,not using a glass. A test showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to wash thoroughly the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them as they have been stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without with being cleaned.

A study in Spain showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated then public toilets i.e full of germs and bacteria. So to wash them with water is advised before putting it to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.



Detailed Analysis:
The Leptospirosis Information Center dismisses this circulating warning as fake.

Exposure to urine from infected rats and other animals can indeed cause humans to contract leptospirosis. However, the chances of someone becoming infected in the manner described in this message are extremely slim.

An article about the warning on the LIC website notes:

First seen in 2002, these emails are entirely without substance, and have been used to send spam, transport viruses and simply to cause panic. The text of the email varies, but the most common version we’ve seen in 2005 is as follows:

[Copy of message similar to above example omitted]

The email evolves over time, and currently we are seeing a rise in circulation in the USA, referring to deaths in several states. If you receive one of these messages, please delete it and ignore what it says. You are more at risk of being hit by lightning while riding a camel than contracting leptospirosis from a commercial drinks container.

The LIC article also states that:

Leptospira require constant immersion in water to survive, and so drying of the surface for any length of time would permanently kill the bacteria. Given that drinking containers are non-porous, surface moisture dries very quickly and cannot possibly contaminate the contents.

The organisms that cause Leptospirosis can survive outside the body of the original host, but only if favourable environmental conditions are present. An article on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website notes that:

The bacteria prefer moist, slightly alkaline soil, stagnant ponds, and low-flow, slow-moving, slightly alkaline streams. In these conditions the organism can survive for several weeks.

Given these facts, it is highly improbable that Leptospirosis bacteria could have survived on the surface of the can lid long enough to infect the alleged victim.

Furthermore, the email implies that rat urine is always toxic. According to the message, “rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances”. This implication is misleading and inaccurate. Contact with urine from diseased rats can certainly lead to illness in humans. However, this is because the urine carries bacteria associated with a particular illness, not because the urine itself is in some way inherently toxic.

The message also falsely claims that the information is backed up by a ‘study at NYCU’. Apparently, ‘NYCU’ is intended to be an acronym for New York University. However, New York University uses the acronym “NYU” rather than “NYCU”. In any case, I cannot locate any record of such a study being conducted by NYU. Another, almost identical version of the message claims that the “study” was conducted in Spain, rather than by the “NYCU”.

As is often the case with such messages, the details supplied are extremely vague. The “victim” is not named nor is there any background information such as the name of the treating hospital or even the name of the town or city where the alleged fatality occurred. The message does specify “North Texas” as the region in which the “incident” occurred. However, a European version of the message claims the incident took place in Belgium.

Extensive research reveals no credible information about a death like the one described in the message. If such a death had occurred in the manner outlined, it would have undoubtedly received wide-reaching publicity from the mainstream media.

Given that soda cans may have been stored or handled in an unsanitary manner before they reach consumers, the message’s recommendation to wash the top of cans is probably worth heeding. However, the spurious and misleading claims in the message should not be taken seriously.


Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer