Typhoid Mary: Reflection on the Case

Topic: Epidemiology
Words: 275 Pages: 1

The case of Mary Mallon, famously named Typhoid Mary, shows the extent to which public health laws can be used to trample on the rights of individuals suspected to have contagious diseases. Mary was a healthy carrier of typhoid fever, which she unknowingly spread to people through her work as a cook. While public health may supersede individual liberties, the handling of the Typhoid Mary case showed a flawed health system in New York City at the time.

Typhoid fever being highly contagious caused a menace for New York City, which had a high population of poor immigrants living in harsh and dirty conditions. With such environments, such individuals were targeted as the leading causes of the spreading diseases afflicting the city. Mary became a victim of such circumstances under which she was hospitalized and held in detention without due process. The mild sickness she had made it difficult to understand her role in spreading the disease. Furthermore, the quarantine process made it difficult for her to comprehend her case’s complexity, making her feel rejected by society. This shows the importance of proper public health systems that can adequately identify risks and respond sufficiently without any form of bias.

Consequently, Mary Mallon’s treatment showed how the less fortunate in society could become victims of the public health system. When identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever, she was unwillingly taken into testing and later detention despite showing no signs of illness. Therefore, while the overall goal was protecting the health of others in the city, her case would have been handled better through a proactive system that would not have labeled her ‘Typhoid Mary.’

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