TYPHOID Mary Mallon was the one-woman Epidemic
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MARY MALLON- the human carrier of TYPHOID FEVER
BURIED at St. Raymond Cemetery, Bronx, New York is an enigmatic Swiss woman who sow fear, anguish and bitterness when she was still alive. She was considered the most dangerous woman in America that time. She was aptly called “Typhoid Mary” not “Bloody Mary” Author Charles Panati had christened her a “one-woman epidemic”
In reality, her parents named her MARY MALLON after her birth on Sept. 23, 1869 in Cookstown, County Tyrone, North Ireland, UK. It was reported her Mother was sick with typhoid fever when she gave birth to her. Mary grew up with the typhoid disease in her system. Possibly Mary inherited the disease. Unwittingly, Mary grew up as human carrier of typhoid.
Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi, a bacillus found in human urine and feces.It is transmitted by contact with human or animal waste. Symptoms of typhoid include fever, severe intestinal rumblings, diarrhea, and listlessness. Typhoid has been a major killer for centuries.
Mary travelled to New York in 1900 and got a job in a house in Mamaroneck and for nearly 2 weeks of stay there as a cook, the residents become sick with Typhoid. She moved to Manhattan the following year and members of that family developed fevers and diarrhea and the laundress died. Then she worked for a lawyer, until 7 of the 8 household members developed typhoid. Mary devoted months helping to care for the people she made sick, but her contact made many of them worse.
In 1904, she settled in Long Island as a house helper. In 2 weeks time 4 of 10 family members were brought to the hospital with typhoid. She moved employment. Three more household members of her new employer were infected.
Strange outbreaks of typhoid cases in New York in 1906 attracted the suspicion of Dr. George Soper. Typhoid usually strikes in places with poor and unsanitary conditions. But cases among the rich with sanitary conditions were unthinkable. He uncovered the suspect as an unmarried, heavyset Irish cook, about 40 years old. No one knew her whereabouts. After each case she left and vanished. Dr Soper traced her to an active outbreak in a Park Avenue penthouse where 2 servants were hospitalized while the daughter of the family perished.
The doctor interrogated Mary and suggested there might be a connection between the dishes she served and the outbreaks of typhoid. He requested a stool sample. She only cursed and threatened him with a meat cleaver. Then police and the New York health commissioner stepped in to arrest her. She went kicking screaming and cursing.
With the help of prison matrons, samples of Mary's urine and stools were extracted. Findings revealed that her gallbladder was teeming with typhoid salmonella. She refused to have her gallbladder extracted or to give up her occupation as cook, maintaining stubbornly that she did not carry any disease.
The government considered her public health enemy number one and confined her to a cottage in the Bronx where she lived and ate alone. She was imprisoned She worked at Riverside Hospital as a laundress, swearing that she was the victim of a government conspiracy
Released in 1910, she promised to remain a laundress and never return to cooking, But she broke her pledge and changed her name to Mary Brown and again got a job as a cook. For the next 5 years, she went from kitchen to kitchen, spreading illness and death.
Then a serious epidemic of typhoid erupted among the staff of New York's Sloan Hospital for Women in 1915, with 25 cases and 2 deaths. City health personnel conducted an investigation, learning that a portly Irish-American woman had suddenly vanished from the kitchen help. The police trailed her to a place on Long Island. This time she cooperated with the authorities meekly.
The number of people she infected or killed will never be known. She refused to cooperate with health authorities, withheld information about her past, and used different names when she changed cities. Three deaths have been definitely attributed to her, with estimates running as high as 50.
Mary was held in isolation on North Brother Island where she gained a sort of popularity. Media people- who came to interview her- were warned not to accept even a glass of water from her. She died Nov. 11, 1938 of pneumonia. Her gallbladder during the autopsy revealed that it was still actively crawling with typhoid bacilli. Despite her death MARY MALLON’s refutation refused to die.
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