A woman who carried disease-spreading germs but was fit herself? Yes, Typhoid Mary or Mary Mallon, was an American cook who infected a large chunk of people, without being infected in herself. Her name was thereafter used to denote those who intentionally or unintentionally infected other people.
Let us find out more:
Mary Mallon had migrated to America at a very young age and had taken up the job of a cook. She was appreciated for her cooking skills and in the span of 7 years (from the year 1900 to the year 1907), she cooked for almost 7 households. In Mamaroneck, people were infected with symptoms of typhoid and it was thought to be an accident. Thereafter, the families she worked for were infected with typhoid and diarrhea. Eating food prepared by Mary either caused death or serious infections. Mary later took up a job at Manhattan which led to the death of around 10-11 people! She could hardly imagine that it was her presence that made things worse. She tried to nurse the sick, but it eventually made it worse.
Charles Warren, a rich banker had employed her and rented a home at Oyster Bay where Mary would cook. Typhoid was considered as an epidemic of the poverty-stricken people but 6 people from the wealthy household fell ill. The banker hired a typhoid researcher who concluded that neither the water nor the shellfish dinner was the cause
He presumed that it was Mallon’s particular dish of a peach dessert that was the cause of the epidemic. And he hit the jackpot – the cool dessert preserved the germ unlike the warm items prepared by Mary. He attempted to locate her but Mary was witty enough to not leave her personal information with her employers. She was untraceable until a young woman died after eating food cooked by Mary. She was then forcefully hospitalized by a few policemen who ensured that she got her medical tests done. Traces of the typhoid bacilli was found in her body due to her habit of not washing hands before preparing food.
Mallon’s first quarantine
Mallon was shifted to an isolated island for the condition and was kept with a single dog only. She tried to sue the health department, only to be left unanswered. Her body did not show any sign of infection; thus, the confinement was illegal. She was granted freedom on grounds that she wouldn’t work as a cook anymore. Mary then took up the job of a laundress but altered her name and went back to cooking because of the better pay. She was put behind the bars after infecting more people.
Mallon’s final quarantine
The hospital at North Brother Island, where she had been placed previously, had employed Mallon to serve as a nurse for tuberculosis-infected patients. Mary caught pneumonia and passed away in 1938. The investigator’s review mentions that Mary had successfully infected around 122 residents of America. Following the incident, the other women who were asymptomatic carriers like Mary had to undergo forceful health examinations by the authorities.
Women who were brought to the isolated island faced many health issues. Mary wrote in her notes about her eye was paralyzed that lasted for almost 6 months, without any medical aid. The eye specialist who came to the island would never pay her a visit. She had a pathetic time and was made to cover her eye throughout the day and night. Mary said with many grievances, “I have been, in fact, a peep show for everybody.”