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Rats and Mice and Hoaxes... Oh My!

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Updated 04/2006

Thank you Ms Elayne for sending the New and Improved rat urine hoax email in.

This one probably scored high on the "Oh My" factor for the women on the daytime talk shows.

As with the older email almost-hoax below, it is still PARTIALLY true, there is a real disease, it can infect humans (although it is rare), and if you live in a poor area with lousy healthcare, are already sick or have a weakened immune system, it can indeed be fatal.

The facts about the Disease from the CDC

The Hoax from

New panic email quote:

To: The Desk Day Job
From: Elayne
Subject: FW: Leptospirosis - Please Read If you Drink Out of a Can
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 5:42 PM


      This incident happened recently 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)

Quote of Panic-Stricken Email from 2002
      submitted by a friend of the Desk (thanks Jon)


A stock clerk was sent to clean up a storeroom in Maui, Hawaii. When he got back, he was complaining that the storeroom was really filthy and that he had noticed dried mouse or rat droppings in some areas.

A couple of days later, he started to feel like he was coming down with a stomach flu, complained of sore joints and headaches, and began to vomit. He went to bed and never really got up again. Within two days he was severely ill and weak. His blood sugar count was down to 66, and his face and eyeballs were yellow. He was rushed to the emergency at Pali-Momi, where he was diagnosed to be suffering from massive organ failure. He died shortly before midnight.

No one would have made the connection between his job and his death, had it not been for a doctor who specifically asked if he had been in a warehouse or exposed to dried rat or mouse droppings at any time. They said there is a virus (much like the Hanta virus) that lives in dried rat and mouse droppings. Once dried, these droppings are like dust and can easily be breathed in or ingested if a person does not wear protective gear or fails to wash face and hands thoroughly.

An autopsy was performed on the clerk to verify the doctor's suspicions.

This is why it is extremely important to ALWAYS carefully rinse off the tops of canned sodas or foods, and to wipe off pasta packaging, cereal boxes, and so on.
Almost everything you buy in a supermarket was stored in a warehouse at one time or another, and stores themselves often have rodents.

Most of us remember to wash vegetables and fruits but never think of boxes and cans.
The ugly truth is, even the most modern, upper-class, super store has rats and mice. And their warehouse most assuredly does!

Whenever you buy any canned soft drink, please make sure that you wash the top with running water and soap or, if that is not available, drink with a straw.

The investigation of soda cans by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta discovered that the tops of soda cans can be encrusted with dried rat's urine, which is so toxic it can be lethal. Canned drinks and other foodstuffs are stored in warehouses and containers that are usually infested with Rodents, and then they get transported to retail outlets without being properly cleaned. Please forward this message to the people you care about.

End of Email Quote

Thanks for the tip Jon. This one just happens to be TRUE, to a point.

      And Yes you read that right. The Mass mailing Jon forwarded, while slightly hysterical, was more or less accurate.
      And Yes, it is ALWAYS a good idea to at least wipe off the top of a drink can before you start guzzling (while hosing it off with soap and water may be a bit extreme). You don't know where it's been, etc.
      Part of the Food Service Sanitation Certificate the Desk earned several years ago from the local State Department of Public Health actually recommended rinsing the tops of cans stored out of the case where dust could collect on them and mice hold disco dance parties on them. And it is a good idea. Sometime when you have nothing better to do and buy a soft drink from a vending machine, wipe the top off with a white tissue and see what's there, you may be rather disgusted with the result.

      But, as with all these email warnings it does go a bit too far. The cause of death and other issues in the case mentioned in the email is being disputed, for one thing the hospital mentioned is not on Maui. According to the CDC about 'the Four Corners' cases (real deaths and illnesses from exposure), there is a direct correlation between the amount of exposure, the condition of the person before exposure, timeliness of diagnoses, and access to treatment which plays into it. As with most diseases, the very young, very old, those already ill, and other factors come into play. The best thing to do, before you take a pressure washer full of bleach to your pantry, is to get some more information.

      See the following links at the Center's for Disease Control -for:
      Hanta Virus PREVENTION
      Mice and rates and other creeping things.
      All about Hantavirus

Once again... Thanks for the tip Jon.

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