Why Famous: Typhoid Mary was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid. As a carrier with no symptoms she was the cause of several typhoid outbreaks in the New York area.
Born Mary Mallon, she was an Irish immigrant working as a domestic cook, typhoid outbreaks followed her from job to job. She infected at least 53 people, mostly the families she worked for and their staff. The actual number of people she infected is likely much higher as Mary changed both her name and jobs to hide from officials.
As the first known "healthy carrier" of typhoid fever, Mary did not understand how she could spread the disease and so resisted all attempts to detain her. She had a poor understanding of hygiene and disease transmission.
Although she never broke any laws, Mary was subjected to a trial and twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities (1907-1910 and 1915-1938), and lived nearly thirty years in isolation.
Her name has become a popular term for anyone unwittingly passing on an undesirable illness.
- 1907-06-15 Researcher George Soper publishes the results of his investigation into recent typhoid outbreaks in the New York area and announces that Mary Mallon [Typhoid Mary] is the likely source of the outbreak
- 1910-02-19 Typhoid Mary [Mary Mallon] is freed from her first periods of forced isolation and goes on to cause several further outbreaks of typhoid in the New York area
- 1915-03-27 Typhoid Mary [Mary Mallon] is arrested and returned to quarantine on North Brother Island, New York after spending five years evading health authorities and causing several further outbreaks of typhoid