Meet Mary Mallon, the stubborn woman who infected people with thypoid fever [MUST READ]

 

Mary Mallon was born in Ireland in 1869 and emigrated to the United States in 1883 or 1884. She was engaged in 1906 as a cook by Charles Henry Warren, a wealthy New York banker, who rented a residence to Oyster Bay on the north coast of Long Island for the summer. From 27 August to 3 September, 6 of the 11 people present in the house were suffering from typhoid fever. At this time, typhoid fever was still fatal in 10% of cases and mainly affected deprived people from large cities. 

The sanitary engineer, committed by the Warren family, George Sober, published the results of his investigation on the 15th of June 1907, in JAMA. Having believed initially that freshwater clams could be involved in these infections, he had hastily conducted his interrogation of the sick people and also of Mary who had presented a moderate form of typhoid Mary continued to host the bacteria, contaminating everything around her, a real threat for the surrounding environment. Although Sober initially feared that the soft clams were the culprits, this proved to be incorrect as not all of those stricken had eaten them. 

Finally Sober had solved the mystery and became the first author to describe a “healthy carrier” of Salmonella typhi in the United States. From March 1907, Sober started stalking Mary Mallon in Manhattan and he revealed that she was transmitting disease and death by her activity. His attempts to obtain samples of Mary’s feces, urine and blood, earned him nothing but being chased by her. Sober reconstituted the puzzle by discovering that previously the cook had served in 8 families. Seven of them had experienced cases of typhoid. Twenty-two people presented signs of infection and some died. 

That year, about 3,000 New Yorkers had been infected by Salmonella typhi, and probably Mary was the main reason for the outbreak. Immunization against Salmonella typhi was not developed until 1911, and antibiotic treatment was not available until 1948. Thus, a dangerous source like Mary had to be restrained. Mary was then frequently accused of being the source of contact for hundreds of the ill.

As a cook of Sloane Maternity in Manhattan, she contaminated, in three months, at least 25 people, doctors, nurses and staff. Two of them died. She had managed to be hired as “Mary Brown” . Since then she was stigmatized as “Typhoid Mary”

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