AN IRON lung, the century-old machine that enables a person to breathe normally when muscle control is lost, will be going on display in Thornbury this week.

Invented 100-years-ago, the negative pressure ventilator, more commonly known as an Iron Lung, was built to keep those alive if they were struggling to breathe from the likes of Polio.

Now obsolete, having been replaced by positive pressure ventilators that operate through a hole in the windpipe, the machine will on display at Tesco in Thornbury on Friday and Saturday to promote the Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.

In 1979 the Rotary International organisation and the inventor of polio vaccine Albert Sabin started a campaign to eradicate this disease by immunising every child in the world.

Professor Benjamin Bradley, chairman of the international committee at Thornbury Rotary Club, said that he looked forward to people learning some poignant lessons from seeing the "life saving" technology up close.

He said: “The current generation will be unfamiliar with polio but those born in the 40’s and 50’s will remember outbreaks of polio and some will be acquainted with its legacy of permanently paralysed limbs.

"The fact it has almost disappeared is a bit deceptive as every child still needs vaccination against it today. That in a ways is the more general message for the younger people who might come and take a look at the Iron Lung, that vaccination is keeping them healthy from a whole host of diseases today.”

This ongoing global Polio eradication initiative is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have pledged to match, two for one, any funds donated by the general public.

Polio remains endemic in just a few countries, but until it is completely eradicated outbreaks will recur, with the Iron Lung being showcased as a reminder of the many devastating diseased that could return if vaccination levels fall.

End Polio Now spearheads many additional health benefits to the developing world including vaccinations for other fatal diseases, women’s’ education, hygiene and sanitary advice.