There's something about Typhoid Mary

· 3 min read
There's something about Typhoid Mary

The following article is a newpaper reproduction and is not written by Jonathan Harker.


Mary Mallon, also known as "Typhoid Mary," was a cook who lived in the early 20th century and is believed to have been the first documented asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria that causes typhoid fever. This means that she was infected with the bacteria but did not show any symptoms of the disease, making it difficult for her to know that she was a carrier and spreading the infection to others. Her case drew a lot of attention at the time and is still remembered today as a cautionary tale of the dangers of asymptomatic carriers and the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene in preventing the spread of disease.

Typhoid fever is a serious illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. It is spread through contaminated food and water, and can cause symptoms such as high fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In the early 1900s, when Mary Mallon was working as a cook, there was little understanding of how the disease was spread and how to prevent it.

Mallon was first identified as a carrier of typhoid in 1906, when she was working as a cook in a New York City household. Several members of the household fell ill with typhoid fever, and an investigation revealed that Mallon was the only common link between them. She was arrested and forcibly quarantined on North Brother Island, a small island in the East River where people with contagious diseases were sent.

During her initial quarantine, Mallon refused to believe that she was a carrier of the disease and fought against her confinement. She argued that her good health proved that she was not a threat to others and that her constitutional rights were being violated. However, her argument was not accepted by the authorities and Mallon was eventually released from quarantine in 1910 under the condition that she would not work as a cook again.

Unfortunately, Mallon did not keep her promise and went back to her old profession, changing her name and hiding her past in order to avoid detection. In 1915, she was again identified as a carrier of typhoid when she was working as a cook in a hospital in Manhattan. The authorities were alerted and Mallon was arrested and quarantined for three years.

After her release, Mallon was ordered to stop working as a cook and to regularly report to health officials, but she refused and went into hiding. In the 1920s, Mallon was again identified as a carrier of typhoid, this time in a maternity hospital. She was arrested and quarantined for the rest of her life on North Brother Island, where she died in 1938.

The case of Mary Mallon attracted a lot of attention and sparked a heated debate about the rights of asymptomatic carriers of infectious diseases. Some argued that Mallon's confinement was a violation of her constitutional rights, while others maintained that it was necessary to protect public health. The case also highlighted the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene in preventing the spread of disease and the need for better education about the transmission of infectious diseases.

Mallon's case also had a significant impact on the field of public health. It prompted health officials to take a more aggressive approach to identifying and isolating carriers of infectious diseases. It also led to the development of more effective methods for detecting and controlling the spread of disease, such as the use of typhoid fever vaccine and improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

In today’s world, typhoid fever is a rare disease in developed countries due to the widespread use of clean water and proper sanitation. However, it remains a significant public health problem in developing countries where access to clean water and sanitation is limited. Vaccines are available to prevent typhoid fever, and it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.