Peach Ice Cream With A Side Dish Of Typhoid Fever, Anyone?

When life gives you lemon, you make bio weapon lemonade and sent 50 people to hospitals.

At least, that is how Mary Mallon, known as Typhoid Mary does it.

Born in September 23, 1869 at Cookstown, one of the poorest areas in Ireland. She is a reserved blonde who unknowingly cause outbreaks of typhoid fever in after migrating to New York after 1883 or 1884.

Although she had spread the typhoid fever, she never suffered any symptoms of said disease other than episodic mild flu. She was immune. She was what doctors would call an asymptomatic carrier.

She worked as a chef for elite families which caused them to be infected with typhoid fever. As typhoid fever is ‘a disease of the poor’ as it spread through contaminated water and food due to lack of sanitation, it caused quite a confusion. People did not understand as to how it occurs. After all, the place was clean and healthy. They never linked the elites’ demises to Mary.

Mary moved household whenever people she worked for started to get very ill, probably to prevent herself from getting sick. She worked, and people would get sick then she moved and worked elsewhere.

Her working pattern was noticed by George Soper, the New York City Department of Health sanitary engineer. He believed that she may be the cause of the outbreak after knowing from an infected family that they had Mary as their cook three weeks prior to the infection.

He successfully tracked Mary Mallon down in 1907 at Park Avenue home in Manhattan. When she was told that she carried the dangerous disease. Mary denied his claim aggressively.

She chased Soper until he was at the front gate with carving fork. No matter how much Soper tried to explain to Mary about being a typhoid carrier, Mary kept on denying.

She stated that if she was a carrier, she would have been sick too which, she did not. However, Soper managed to convince the government to quarantine Mary and isolated her from public.

First quarantine (1907 – 1910)

She was quarantined at a clinic in North Brother Island. Her condition was so special, she attracted a lot of media attention. In 1908, she gained the nickname “Typhoid Mary”.

How did she spread the disease?

Soper claimed that her bad hygiene and her signature dish, ice-cream with raw peaches cut up and frozen in it caused the germs to spread. Since the ice-cream does not kill the germs, it remained and infected people who ate it.

And no matter how hard the hospital tried to cure her, it was all in vain. She was destined to be Typhoid Mary forever.

She lamented to the media that she was punished for nothing. After appealing to the court again and again, she was released by the United State Supreme Court under one condition: she would not work as chef or any food handling employment.

She, of course, do it anyway.

Second quarantine (1915 – 1938) and death of Typhoid Mary

Mary tried to work in occupations unrelated to food handling but soon returned being a chef again. Cooking was the only thing Mary really knew and the paycheck was much better. She changed her name to Mary Brown and worked at restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

When an outbreak had struck Sloane Hospital for Women, Soper was called. The outbreak was traced to the hospital’s cook, which was chillingly nicknamed ‘Typhoid Mary’ by other workers.

Soper quickly recognized Mary and quarantined her for the second time. She did not put a fight this time.

She was quarantined at North Brother Island once again. Mary was provided home and food for free. She was also paid for her contribution in the laboratory. She made no attempt to escape. She spent her last 23 years quarantined until her death on November 11, 1938.


  • Nurul Athifa Mohd Aslam adalah pelajar Fakulti Filem, Teater dan Animasi.
  • Dr. Mohd Syuhaidi Abu Bakar adalah Pensyarah Kanan, Fakulti Filem, Teater dan Animasi.

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