Who was she?
She was Mary Mallon, aka "Typhoid Mary", as she was the first person in the US found to be a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. PBS Nova had a show about her on Aug 21.
So? Why is she so (in)famous?
Typhoid fever is spread through contaminated food or water. And, Mary worked as a cook for a living, so that's a double whammy. Investigators traced the infection to her and had her quarantined for a few years. But she didn't believe them since she was in good health and was a strong believer in fate. After she was released (due to sympathy from the new health commissioner), she secretly went back to cooking (duh, she's a cook). And the next round of infections began, which led to her being quarantined again.
How many people actually died?
You would think that due to her notoriety, surely tons of people would have been infected and succumbed to the infection. Like most (sensationalized) news, however, only 33 were infected and only 3 didn't make it. I'm not saying that those people weren't important, but she wasn't the only healthy carrier at that time, in fact, there were 50 of them.
Did she really carry typhoid bacteria?
Mary never believed she had the bacteria on her and even engaged a private lab to do testing. Supposedly, the results came back negative for typhoid bacteria. But in an autopsy, the bacteria was eventually found on her.
Find out more about Typhoid Mary at Nova, Snopes and Wikipedia.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Who was she?