Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow

Published by Calkins Creek

Summary:  Everyone’s heard of Typhoid Mary, but who was she really?  Uncovering her identity was a medical mystery that began in the summer of 1906.  The detective was Dr. George Soper, a sanitation engineer who helped control a typhoid epidemic that swept through the town of Ithaca and Cornell University.  When a wealthy family on Long Island was sickened with typhoid, they hired Soper to figure out what had caused the outbreak.  He eventually tracked it to Mary Mellon, their former cook.  Not only that, but he was able to trace several other outbreaks to her.  The book chronicles her capture and confinement on an island off of Manhattan for most of the rest of her life. The reader will also learn about typhoid, its role in history, and how it has gradually been eliminated from most of the western world.

Pros:  I had heard of typhoid and Typhoid Mary but knew nothing about it.  The lack of sanitation in the U.S. less than a century ago was pretty appalling.  Celebrities like Abigail Adams, Wilbur Wright, and Stephen Douglas all died of typhoid.  Although this book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel.

Cons:  You may find yourself looking askance at your tap water.  And you will surely nag your children more to wash their hands.

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