Daily Update: Monday, March 27th, 2017

03-27 - Mary Mallon

We have no Saints today. We note that it was on this day in 1915 that Mary Mallon, known as Typhoid Mary, was confined for the rest of her life at a clinic on North Brother Island in the Bronx as a preventive public health measure.

Individuals can develop typhoid fever after ingesting food or water contaminated during handling by a human carrier. The human carrier is usually a healthy person who has survived a previous episode of typhoid fever yet who continues to shed the associated bacteria, Salmonella typhi, in feces and urine. The first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever was Mary Mallon. She was born in 1869 in Ireland, emigrated to the United States in 1884, and, starting from 1900, began working as a cook in the New York City area. In 1900 she had been working in a house in Mamaroneck, New York, for under two weeks when the residents developed typhoid fever. She moved to Manhattan in 1901 and members of the family for whom she worked developed fevers and diarrhea and the laundress died. She then went to work for a lawyer until seven of the eight household members developed typhoid. In 1906 she took a position in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Within two weeks, ten of eleven family members were hospitalized with typhoid. She changed employment again, and similar occurrences happened in three more households. When typhoid researcher George Soper approached Mallon about her possible role spreading typhoid, she maintained that she was perfectly healthy, had never had typhoid fever, and could not be the source. She adamantly rejected his request for urine and stool samples, reportedly chasing him off with a meat cleaver. Soper left and later published his report in June, 1907, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. On his next contact with her he brought a doctor with him, but was turned away again. During a later encounter in the hospital, he told Mary that he would write a book about her and give her all the royalties; she angrily rejected his proposal and locked herself in the bathroom until he left. The New York City Health Department sent Dr. Sara Josephine Baker to talk to Mary, but “by that time she was convinced that the law was only persecuting her when she had done nothing wrong.” A few days later Baker arrived at Mary’s workplace with several police officers who took her into custody, and the New York City health inspector determined her to be a carrier. Under sections 1169 and 1170 of the Greater New York Charter, Mallon was held in isolation for three years at a clinic located on North Brother Island, between the Bronx and Riker’s Island. Eventually the New York State Commissioner of Health, Eugene H. Porter, M.D., decided that disease carriers would no longer be held in isolation. Mallon could be freed if she agreed to abandon working as a cook and to take reasonable steps to prevent transmitting typhoid to others. On February 19th, 1910, Mallon agreed that she “[was] prepared to change her occupation (that of a cook), and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact, from infection”. She was released from quarantine and returned to the mainland. After being given a job as a laundress (which paid lower wages than her previous cooking jobs), Mallon adopted the pseudonym Mary Brown, returned to her previous occupation as a cook, and in 1915 was believed to have infected 25 people, resulting in one death, while working as a cook at New York’s Sloane Hospital for Women. Public-health authorities again found and arrested Mallon, returning her to quarantine on North Brother Island on March 27th, 1915, where she was confined for the remainder of her life. She became something of a minor celebrity and was interviewed by journalists, who were forbidden to accept even a glass of water from her. Later she was allowed to work as a technician in the island’s laboratory. She died at the clinic in 1938 and an autopsy found evidence of live typhoid bacteria in her gallbladder; she is thought to have infected some 53 people, three of whom died, with typhoid fever. Today Typhoid Mary is a generic term for anyone who, knowingly or not, spreads something undesirable. (It is worth noting that now, in 2017, we have people refusing to vaccinate their children, which means that their children cannot infect anyone who is properly vaccinated, but children too young to vaccinate and people with compromised immune systems are at risk of being infected by unvaccinated children. If we can legally quarantine someone with Eboli, why can’t we quarantine unvaccinated children?)

Last night our #9 LSU Tigers won the third Away College Baseball game with the #8 Florida Gators by the score of 10 to 6; our #9 LSU Tigers (18-7, 4-2) will next play a Home College Baseball game with the Tulane Green Wave on Wednesday, March 29th. Our #12 LSU Lady Tigers won their third Home College Softball game with the #16 Georgia Lady Bulldogs by the score of 1 to 0, and our New Orleans Pelicans won their NBA game with the Denver Nuggets by the score of 115 to 90.

Upon waking up to get ready for work today, I did my Book Devotional Reading, and Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once at the casino I called the Pharmacy and renewed three prescriptions (more anon). Once we clocked in (Richard was fasting after 3:00 am, when our shift started), Richard was on Mississippi Stud, and I was right next to him on the Three Card Poker table; at 10:00 am they used me to open up the Four Card Poker table. During my 7:30 am break I called the Pharmacy to make sure that the medication that ran out today would be refilled, and our pharmacist reported some sort of problem. (More anon.)

After we clocked out at 11:00 am we went over to the Clinic; Richard had blood drawn for lab work ahead of his April 10th, 2017 appointment with the Nurse Practitioner, and I picked up two prescriptions (including the one that had run out this morning). (I will pick up the third prescription, which isn’t critical, on Friday, April 7th, the first day we will be back at the casino after our vacation.) Richard got his lunch from McDonald’s; on our way home we stopped at the Superette for boudin, and at the bank to cash the rolled coins. When we got home, I finished setting up my medications for next week and ate my lunch salad while reading the morning paper, and Richard mowed the grass. After starting my laundry, I then packed my suitcase as much as I could today. I finished my laundry, then ironed my Casino shirts from Sunday and today. And now, I will finish up this Daily Update and get ready to go to bed. Our New Orleans Pelicans (31-42, 5-10) will be playing an Away NBA game with the Utah Jazz, and the New Moon will arrive at 10:59 pm.

We have no Saints to honor, but we will recall that in 1979 a coolant leak at the Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania led to the core overheating and a partial melt down. I will be getting up half an hour early, and we will head for the casino and sign the Early Out list. Once we get home from work (at whatever time), we will change our clothes, lock up the house, and head for Baton Rouge. We will eat breakfast at Louie’s on State Street just north of the LSU campus, and if it is not too early we will go see Butch at the rehab center; we will then head east, and get a good distance before stopping for the night. Our #12 LSU Lady Tigers (27-7, 4-2) will be playing a Home College Softball game with the University of Louisiana Monroe Lady Warhawks.

Our Parting Quote on this Monday afternoon comes to us from Richard N. Frye, American scholar. Born in 1920 in Birmingham, Alabama, he first attended the University of Illinois, where he received an BA in history and philosophy in 1939. He received his MA from Harvard University in 1940. Frye served with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He was stationed in Afghanistan and traveled extensively in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. Upon his return, he received his PhD from Harvard in 1946, in Asiatic history. His professional areas of interest were Iranian philology and the history of Iran and Central Asia before 1000 CE. He spoke fluent Russian, German, Arabic, Persian, Pashto, French, Uzbek, and Turkish, and had extensive knowledge of Avestan, Pahlavi, Sogdian, and other Iranian languages and dialects, both extinct and current. He was a member of the Harvard faculty from 1948 until 1990. His first book, The Near East and the Great Powers, was published in 1951. Although Frye was mostly known for his works about Iran and Iranian Central Asia, the scope of his studies was much wider and included Byzantine, Caucasian, and Ottoman history, Eastern Turkistan, ancient and medieval Iranian art, Islamic art, Sufism, Chinese and Japanese archeology, and a variety of Iranian and non-Iranian languages including Avestan, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Khotanese, and Bactrian, New Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and even Chinese, beside research languages which included French, German, Italian, and Russian. Frye helped found the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, the first Iranian studies program in America. He also served as faculty, guest lecturer, or visiting scholar at Habibiya College in Kabul (1942–44), Frankfurt University (1959–60). Hamburg University (1968–69), Pahlavi University of Shiraz (1970–76), and University of Tajikistan (1990–92). Frye also served as Director of the Asia Institute in Shiraz (1970–1975), was on the Board of Trustees of the Pahlavi University at Shiraz (1974–78), was Chairman of the Committee on Inner Asian Studies, at Harvard (1983–89), and was Editor of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute (1970–1975 and 1987–99). Frye was also directly responsible for inviting Iranian scholars as distinguished visiting fellows to Harvard University, under a fellowship program initiated by Henry Kissinger. Among Frye’s students was author Michael Crichton, whose 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922 was loosely based on Frye’s translation of Ibn Fadlan’s account of his travels up the river Volga. (The film version of the book, The 13th Warrior, came out in 1999.) A ceremony was held in Iran on June 27th, 2004 to pay tribute to the six-decade endeavors of Frye on his lifetime contribution to Iranian Studies, research work on the Persian language, and the history and culture of Iran. That same year he spoke at an architectural conference in Tehran, expressing his dismay at hasty modernization that ignores the beauties of traditional Iranian architectural styles. In 2005 he spoke at UCLA, encouraging the Iranians present to cherish their culture and identity. Frye expressed his wish to be buried next to the Zayandeh River in Isfahan (which he also included in his will). This request was approved by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September 2007. Two other American scholars of Iranian Studies, Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, are already buried there. In 2010 a house in Isfahan was gifted by the Iranian government to  Frye in recognition of his services to Iranian studies. On June 8th, 2014, the family of Dr. Frye decided to cremate his remains after waiting more than two months for official Iranian permission to bury him in Isfahan. His death coincided with growing resentment by Iranian hard-liners over signs of reconciliation with the United States after decades of estrangement. It was not clear what the family intended to do with his ashes (died 2014): “Arabs no longer understand the role of Iran and the Persian language in the formation of Islamic culture. Perhaps they wish to forget the past, but in so doing they remove the bases of their own spiritual, moral and cultural being…without the heritage of the past and a healthy respect for it…there is little chance for stability and proper growth.”

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