You’ve heard of serial killers. But have you ever heard of a serial infector? That’s exactly what Typhoid Mary was.
This is the story of her near-capture, constant escapes, and eventual apprehension by New York’s Public Health Division.
Who was Mary Mallon?
Mary Mallon, or “Typhoid Mary,” was an Irish immigrant. She moved to America around the age of 15 and quickly found work as a domestic servant.
Soon, she discovered that she had a talent with food and started cooking for affluent families in New York. She earned much higher wages for this than she would have for most other domestic service positions.
More importantly, she spread typhoid like it was her job.
Oddly, she was the picture of health. When officials accused her of spreading the disease, she refused to believe that it could be true.
How can a completely healthy person spread disease?
Germ theory in the early 1900s was a fairly new idea. A lot of people thought it was complete hogwash. Still, researchers knew that typhoid was spread through feces. And Mary spread a lot of typhoid. Therefore, it can be deduced that Mary didn’t wash her hands after she pooped. Ever.
When researchers eventually identified her as patient zero, they demanded stool and urine samples. Some say she was so angry, she attacked them with a meat fork.
Let’s be honest here: Mary knew how to throw down. It took officials years to apprehend her.
By the first time they caught her in 1907, it is estimated that she had infected 22 people and caused the death of one girl. Mary was deemed a threat to society and put away against her will. She spent several years in the Riverside Hospital for Communicable Diseases.
She was released for a brief period, and then quarantined permanently.