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Skip Navigation LinksQueensland State Archives > Researching the archives > Exhibitions > Queensland firsts > 26-50 > 1911 - Pioneering Polio treatment

1911 - Pioneering Polio treatment

The outbreak of Poliomyelitis in Queensland, first reported in 1905, grew to epidemic proportions. An initial outbreak in 1914 resulted in 322 cases, although this was overshadowed by an epidemic from 1951 to 1952 which recorded 924 outbreaks.

In 1932, Elizabeth Kenny opened a small clinic in Townsville for children affected by Poliomyelitis and Cerebral Palsy. In contrast to crude methods previously used, Sister Kenny implemented new techniques, such on hot baths and massage treatments, to significantly improve patient care.

Despite opposition from the Royal Commission to these methods, the government responded with £50,000 in funding for the clinics, generated from the proceeds of the Golden Casket in 1933.

A biographical film, starring the glamorous Rosalind Russell, later paid tribute to the achievements of Sister Kenny and her advances in the first alternative treatments for Poliomyelitis which remain in use across the world today.

In a letter of appreciation, Nell Robertson from Townsville credits Sister Kenny’s treatment for infantile paralysis, for improving her condition, 24 July 1933 Queensland State Archives Item ID 1139154, Digital Image ID 2901 Premier and Chief Secretary’s

In a letter of appreciation, Nell Robertson from Townsville credits Sister Kenny’s treatment for infantile paralysis, for improving her condition, 24 July 1933
Queensland State Archives Item ID 1139154, Digital Image ID 2901 Premier and Chief Secretary’s Department

Sister Elizabeth Kenny, c 1917 State Library of Queensland, Image no. 171668

Sister Elizabeth Kenny, c 1917
State Library of Queensland, Image no. 171668

Sister Kenny and the First Alternative Treatment of Poliomyelitis Testimonial from Townsville doctor V.F. O’Neill, cites “remarkable results” for Thelma Jeffs, crippled by infantile paralysis, but able to walk after Sister Kenny’s treatment, 24 July 1933

Testimonial from Townsville doctor V.F. O’Neill, cites “remarkable results” for Thelma Jeffs, crippled by infantile paralysis, but able to walk after Sister Kenny’s treatment, 24 July 1933
Queensland State Archives Item ID 1139155, Digital Image ID 2902 Premier and Chief Secretary’s Department

Around the world

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Last updated 02 March 2012