The polio epidemic of 1937 to 1938 affected over 2000 adults and children in Tasmania with 81 deaths. It led to the establishment of the Tasmanian Society for the Care of Crippled Children in 1935, St Giles' Home in 1937, and Wingfield House in 1938.
During this polio epidemic, 421 people were affected for every 100,000 members of the population, making it almost the biggest outbreak ever recorded in the world.
In an attempt to limit the spread of infection and prevent panic, the government imposed severe restrictions on the population. New trained and voluntary staff had to be found to look after people affected by the disease.
The Launceston branch of the Tasmanian Society for the Care of Crippled Children opened St Giles' Home to accommodate and treat children with polio. Using a grant from Lord Nuffield, the Society also assisted with the establishment of Wingfield House, on the site of the former Queen's Orphan Asylum in New Town, by then, St John's Park.
Sources used to compile this entry: Killalea, Anne, The great scourge: the Tasmanian infantile paralysis epidemic 1937-, Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 1995, 165 pp; Killalea, Anne, Poliomyelitis, The companion to Tasmanian history, 2005. Also available at http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/P/Polio.htm.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 21 February 2012, Last modified: 9 April 2014