The story of Typhoid Mary is particularly interesting in an age where ebola and other serious diseases threaten the lives of many. Quarantined for what she considered to be a faulty diagnosis, Mary was one of the first “healthy carriers” of typhoid fever, an often-fatal communicable illness. Over the past century, Mary’s story has brought up many issues whose impact can still be seen today, especially those regarding civil liberties, public health, and how the government reconciles both. This is the story of Mary Mallon, the woman behind Typhoid Mary.
Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant who first came to the United States as a teenager. To survive, she held a number of domestic jobs, often as a household cook. In 1906, Mary was hired as a cook by Charles Henry Warren and his vacationing family. In early autumn, six of the 11 Warren household members were infected with typhoid fever. To determine how the family caught the disease, Warren hired sanitary engineer George Soper, who had experience with typhoid fever outbreaks.
An old cartoon shows that illnesses like typhoid can be prevented. Source: Monster Brains