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University Archives and History

The Polio Epidemic in Greensboro, N.C.

About the polio epidemic

In the summer of 1948, a polio epidemic hit North Carolina, with Guilford County and Greensboro being hit the hardest. Phillips writes, “The established hospitals in Greensboro — St. Leo's, Piedmont, Wesley Long, L. Richardson and Sternberger — did not have the necessary iron lungs, rocking beds, hot packs, warm water baths, or the space for polio patients, who had to be strictly segregated from non-polio patients.”

 

Due to the lack of space and equipment needed to care for patients, one of the buildings of the Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD) was converted into a makeshift hospital for polio patients. This prevented patients from having to be shipped to other cities for treatment, but over the course of the summer it became clear that the ORD was not going to be able to handle the amount of patients coming in.

 

 

Later that summer, another temporary polio hospital was set up on North Greene Street in what was once the old News & Record building to provide more room for patients. These two locations were only a temporary fix. There needed to be a new hospital constructed to provide the care that patients needed and to keep them separated so that new cases would not develop.

 

The radio station WBIG (We Believe in Greensboro) helped to raise funds for the construction of the new hospital. WBIG radio announcer Bob Jones, in particular, was very active in the raising of these funds and got $50,000 donated. The Greensboro News Co. “appealed to readers” and raised $120,000. Other local newspapers, individuals, and groups, such as the March of Dimes, helped to raise money for the hospital's construction. The hospital was meant to be a temporary structure, but with the resounding success of the fundraising effort the hospital was approved to be a permanent structure.

 

The groundbreaking for the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital, also known as the Polio Hospital, opened on October 11, 1948. It functioned as the polio hospital until 1958 when it became the Central Carolina Rehabilitation Hospital.

 

Navigating the materials for research

History of polio in Greensboro
Documents which discuss the Polio epidemic in Greensboro, NC, the Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD), and the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital.

 

Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital ("Polio Hospital")
Photos of the hospital and documents that specifically discuss the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital (Polio Hospital) in Greensboro, NC.

 

Photographs
Photos of patients and facilities, taken by Martin's studio, WBIG radio, the March of Dimes, and others.

 

Further research
Many collections in Good Medicine feature newspaper articles about the polio epidemic, other documents, and photographs.

 

 

Suggested search terms

 

Works cited

100 years of caring and progress in medicine, Greensboro, 1903-2003 : Guilford County Medical Society, pg. 15. Cone_WZ70AN8P5622003, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital Collection, Cone Health Medical Library.

 

Visual medical history of Greensboro, pg. 47-55. Cone_WZ70AN8P562V2001, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital Collection, Cone Health Medical Library.

 

History of the hospitals in Greensboro, North Carolina : including sanitariums, infirmaries and institutes, pg. 62-71. Cone_WZ70AN8P562V2001, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital Collection, Cone Health Medical Library.

 

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