Polio is a very infectious disease. It may be passed through contact with faeces. The germs may also be in the water or in the food of the person.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been working very hard to make sure that everyone can be immunized against polio so that this disease can be stamped out in the whole world.
Most people who get the infection do not become ill with it but a few people become ill with a bad headache, feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting (throwing up). A very small number of these people get a paralysis of parts of their body.
Some had trouble with breathing and needed a machine to do their breathing for them. These were called respirators but were often known as ‘iron lungs’.
Paralyzed legs were sometimes strapped to metal rods (splints) to try to keep them straight. This was done in the hope that one day the paralysis would pass and the person would be able to use the limbs again.