Mary Mallon (1869 – 1938), better known as "Typhoid Mary," was the first person in the U.S. identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She was presumed to have infected 49 people in 1906 and 1907, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation. Mary Gulivindala of Chestnut Hill insists she is not the reincarnation of Typhoid Mary.

Mary Mallon (1869 – 1938), better known as “Typhoid Mary,” was the first person in the U.S. identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She was presumed to have infected 49 people in 1906 and 1907, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation. Mary Gulivindala of Chestnut Hill insists she is not the reincarnation of Typhoid Mary.

by Mary Gulivindala

By Last winter’s weather wreaked havoc on our fine town. It was cold. It snowed a ton. Schools were closed. There were colds and flu keeping children home from school. Parents spent days nursing them back to health.

Now Spring has sprung and said goodbye to colds, coughs and fevers; right? Wrong, at least in my home. I am in week four of “the flu.” This has been the worst flu experience of my life. It’s not over yet, so fingers crossed. Every previous winter I got the flu shot, not because I believe it works but because I’m at CVS all the time, and they do it there, so why not? This year, however, I chose not to get one. “Let’s see if that flu shot really works,” I thought. Guess what? The flu outsmarted me!

Over a month ago my son said, “Mom, I don’t feel good.” My reply: “You’re going to school.” I knew he was telling the truth because it was Friday. No kid says he’s sick on a Friday, even if he is. He’ll wait until Monday. Three days later I had a touch of swollen glands. No biggie. Then all of a sudden I physically felt like I was run over by a Mack truck carrying a load of flu symptoms, and I was down for the count. But I still did not think it would be half as bad as it turned out to be.

(I even thought it might be the MERS virus because the symptoms are similar, and I recently read that the first two confirmed cases of MERS were brought into the U.S. from people who had been in Saudi Arabia. Maybe I caught it from one of them.)

When I’m sick, I can be quite dramatic, even more so than usual. In a state of delirium I thought that I had a visit from Typhoid Mary. For those who never learned about her in school, Mary Mallon (better known as “Typhoid Mary”) was an Irish immigrant (Uh, I’m Irish) and the first person in the U.S. identified as a carrier of typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium salmonella typhi. In the U.S., it is estimated by public health officials that 5,700 cases still occur annually. It’s not as traumatic as in 1907, when Typhoid Mary was spreading it (presumably because of a lack of hand-washing, and she was a cook), and today it can be cured with antibiotics, but still, did I have it?

The main symptoms of Typhoid fever are red splotches and diarrhea. I had neither, so I figured I had the flu instead. What to do about it? Gargle with hot salt water, drink lots of vitamin C, watch movies and sleep. That’s my cure for every ailment. I don’t own a thermometer, but a hand to the forehead has always been good enough for me.

Flu symptoms include fatigue, a cough and/or sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose. I had them all. I also had five nights of sweats and chills to the point where I was a puddle in my bed, sopping wet. Same thing in the daytime, too. I had to call my mom. She made up the couch like a bed for me, and I soaked right through it. One day it was 70 degrees outside, and I was still shaking despite wearing a granny sweater, a hat, scarf and lying under three blankets. My son was running in and out of the house with shorts and a t-shirt on.

My muscles ached, and my skin hurt! I was bedridden for days. About 10 days into this flu, my kidney area started to hurt. I thought it was a pulled muscle, but it would not go away. Finally I surrendered and went to the doctor. Diagnosis: I had a muscle knot in my back the size of a tennis ball. I was told to use a heating pad, which I did for days. It helped the chills but not my back.

I also was having serious migraine headaches. I have a super-duper nasal spray that I use for the headaches, but this time it didn’t work. I spent one entire day not being able to open my eyes. Again I had to call my mom, who bought a hospital-sized supply of liquids, cough medicines, cough drops, Tylenol and more. She also bought a thermometer. I was so dehydrated I must have chugged two gallons of lemonade and Hawaiian punch back to back. And my temperature fluctuated for three weeks between 100 and 104.

Where am I today? Energy low and a cough that just won’t break. Don’t worry, neighbors, I have quarantined myself for weeks, and I do feel better. I’m not going to die, at least not right now, but I think I will start wearing a Michael Jackson-type mask. I have lived in Japan twice, and lots of germaphobes there wear them. And next year, I will be first in line for the flu shot. I may even get one each week.

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