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SARS and other pandemics are spread by modern-day Typhoid Marys (slate.com)
20 points by Anon84 1787 days ago | hide | past | web | 12 comments | favorite

Mary Mallon wasn't merely an asymptomatic carrier. She was informed of what she was, and refused to listen. As a result she was held in isolation for three years, but eventually released after promising to give up being a cook. Five years later, after another series of outbreaks, and several deaths, it was discovered that she had changed her name and was once again working as a cook. She was imprisoned/quarantined for a second time, that time for the rest of her life. It probably is not very nice to call uninformed asymptomatic carriers 'Typhoid Mary's. ;)

Reading it that way she sounds like an asshole, but what job, other than being a cook, could she even get?

After being released she got a job doing laundry. Apparently the pay was less than she was used to, so she started cooking again.

I am conflicted on whether I would call her an asshole or not. On one hand it seems she really was lacking malicious intent and simply didn't believe everyone who told her she was hurting people. On the other hand, she really should have believed them. She should have believed them, or at least cooperated with them the first time they tracked her down, and the second time they tracked her down it really should have sunk in. So is it a case of "sufficiently advanced incompetence" being indistinguishable from malice? People were dying because of her deliberate actions, so does it really matter if she didn't intend it?

I think it's a fairly complex case.

It sounds to me as if she was either really stupid or a murderer (or both, if you want).

> but in 2003 it turned into a global outbreak that infected 8,098

You'd think it was more than that given the media outcry at the time. 8,000 out of ~6.8 billion is a complete nothing... more people probably died in car accidents in the same time period.

In 2003 there were 42,643 deaths due to auto accidents in the United States alone. It's a pretty staggering number.

[1]: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_deaths_are_caused_by_car_...

The potential is what is feared. Car accidents aren't suddenly going to kill 1-3%[1] of the worlds population and bring international commerce to a stand still.

[1] 20-50 mil 1918 flu pandemic http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic

Seasonal flu is implicated in anywhere from 3k to 49k deaths per year in the US alone (depending on how rough the seasonal variant is). So 774 worldwide from SARS isn't much of a 'pandemic' to fear.

If over 7k people had confirmed SARS and survived, many more probably had mild cases that were never disambiguated from other seasonal respiratory illnesses. Perhaps they 'superspread' milder viral variants which spoiled the 'herd' for nastier variants.

> many more probably had mild cases that were never disambiguated from other seasonal respiratory illnesses

It's certainly possible that some people got "low-grade" or even asymptomatic SARS. However, given how it spread like wildfire through exposed populations (such as health-care workers) it does seem that many people were susceptible to the virus and developed severe symptoms when exposed.

Therefore it seems unlikely that antibodies built up in the "herd" had much to do with the pandemic ending. The credit goes to the massive public health response, especially isolating anybody with suspected contact. SARS had all the components needed for a bad pandemic; they probably saved tens of millions of lives.

Yes. But they were also actively fighting the spread of the disease. 10% mortality rate is nothing to cough at. It's in some ways like Y2K. It came and went, and really nothing much happened. Precisely because the media projections were all about 'what could go wrong (+ a healthy dose of extra sensationalism)' versus reality where there was directed and active mitigation and prevention, precisely to prevent that.

It's about risk. If even one person was infected and died of smallpox in, say, New York City you would see 24/7 news coverage and billions of dollars of government expenditures to keep things controlled. And it would be justified.

Epidemiologists only now investigating the Pareto Principle?

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