“Typhoid Mary”: Story of a cook who infected over 50 people while remaining healthy
“Typhoid Mary” is the woman’s nickname who infected more than 50 people with typhoid fever while remaining healthy herself. Her case showed that one could be a carrier of a dangerous infection without any noticeable symptoms. In English, the phrase “Typhoid Mary” (Mary Mallon) has become a household name – the so-called people who deliberately or accidentally spread disease.
Bright side became interested in the life of this woman, who sacredly believed in her innocence, but was forcibly sent to isolation on the island, where she spent a total of 26 years.
A cook with a fatal infection
Mary Mallon was born in Ireland in 1869; modern scientists suggest that typhoid fever could have been transmitted to her from her mother at the embryonic stage, but in any case, she was a healthy child. When she was 15 years old, she decided to move to relatives in America to build a glorious bright future there.
Fate itself favored her, and Mary got a job as a cook in a wealthy family. For 30 years, nothing boded trouble: the girl honed her skills, she liked to cook, and everything would be fine if it were not for the sudden outbreaks of typhoid fever in the families for which she worked.
From 1900 to 1907, the woman managed to serve in 5-8 different families. Two weeks after her work in the small town of Mamaroneck, the first patients with typhoid fever appeared there. Mary moved to Manhattan, but her family members developed fever and diarrhea, and the washerwoman died. Later, the disease followed her on her heels: typhoid fever knocked down 7 out of 8 people; 10 out of 11 people fell ill in the next house. Mary helped nurture patients for a long time, not suspecting that, in fact, she only harmed them even more.
Then she moved to Long Island, to the house of a prominent banker, Henry Warren. It took her only six days to infect six of the eleven members of the Warren family. Mary, of course, quit, but this did not stop her from continuing her typhoid rally.
As a result, one of the families turned to a typhoid specialist, George Soper, who was not too lazy to investigate and caught Mary by the hand: he found her in the house where the owner’s daughter had already died, and several other people suffered from typhoid fever.
Ignorance does not absolve from responsibility
It is scary to imagine what Mary herself felt at these moments. If you think for a second, then the girl was forced to live in constant paranoid fear of typhoid fever, not suspecting that she herself was the source of the disease.
She had to see the death of good, innocent people, perhaps even those close to her, and ask extremely difficult questions for the cook: why is there a typhus epidemic wherever I go, and why am I not getting sick with it?
Dr. Soper could have answered these questions, but Mary was not very talkative when they first met. The typhus specialist politely asked the girl to be tested, but Mary categorically refused.
First, because she considered herself healthy, secondly, she had already seen the local pharmacist, and he assured her that everything was in order. Third, she took it as an insult against the background of the general contempt of Americans towards migrants from Ireland. In general, there were a lot of reasons, and the goal was to get away from the annoying doctor by all possible methods.
For the most part, she succeeded: Soper left Mary alone but wrote an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, where she was first nicknamed Typhoid Mary. After the publication of such a compromising material, the corresponding structures became interested in the cook.
They politely but insistently asked Mary to talk to the girl-doctor Sara Josephine Baker. However, the Irish woman stood her ground, confident in her innocence and immensely offended by the US authorities for what seemed to be her unreasonable persecution.
However, the security forces turned out to be more persistent than the doctors, and they took Mary’s tests in prison. It turned out that in her bladder, there is a whole breeding ground of typhoid-like bacteria. She was offered to get rid of the bladder and, accordingly, get rid of the ill-fated hotbed, but the cook, utterly dumbfounded by what was happening, flatly refused to say goodbye to the bladder.
This is understandable: the girl felt completely healthy even though she, like no one else, knew all the symptoms of typhoid fever. The only thing Mary admitted was that she sometimes forgot to wash her hands and did not pay enough attention to hygiene.
This statement did not at all convince the law enforcement agencies of her innocence, so Mary Mallon was sent to forced quarantine for three years, which she had to serve in a hospital on North Brother Island honestly.
Lifetime quarantine of typhoid mary
In fairness, at first, the quarantine was only three years, but what happened then is a different story. It all started with Mary’s analyses trolled the scientists who either found typhus bacteria or not.
Her old acquaintance, George Soper, even came to visit her. However, the girl was not very happy with such guests, so she locked herself in the toilet and refused to go out, despite the doctor’s persuasion to write a book about her and give all royalties.
After three years of quarantine, the doctors still agreed to release Mary from the island on the condition that she would never work as a cook again. She took the oath but seemed to have crossed her fingers because everything returned to normal right after returning to New York.
And in the beginning, she got a job as a laundress. But this work turned out to be lower paid and more difficult, so she decided to change her last name to Brown and infect people more carefully.
She left her place of work as soon as the household showed signs of typhoid fever. Thus, the police and Soper personally could not track her down for a long five years until Typhoid Mary got a job in a hospital: as a result, 25 people were infected, and one died.
Of course, she was immediately arrested and sent back to North Brother, this time in quarantine for life. However, the journalists did not let the girl get bored, constantly flocking to the hospital, where poor Mary served her sentence.
In fairness, Mary refused to be treated, even when everything was proven and documented, so she cannot be denied persistence. She was even given a job there: after 7 years of quarantine, she became a local nurse, and a little later, she even rose to the promotion and began to wash test tubes in the laboratory.
After 23 years of an exciting time in a hospital on an isolated island, Typhoid Mary died in 1938 of pneumonia. An autopsy revealed that she was indeed the same patient zero, a carrier of typhoid fever, and probably the most deadly cook that humanity has ever known.