Faces of Influenza Profile: Sue Rahr—Sheriff, Aunt and Mother

What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, this mucus blocks the airways. The thick, sticky mucus causes lung damage and makes breathing difficult. Bacteria grow in the mucus, leading to life-threatening lung infections that can damage the lungs.

Sue RahrInfluenza is a potentially deadly infectious lung disease. Some people are at greater risk to become dangerously sick from the flu. Those include people with chronic lung diseases and people whose immune systems are weakened by medical conditions or certain medications. It is important for their family members and other "close contacts" also to get a flu shot. Sue Rahr, a King County (Washington) Sheriff, is one of those close contacts who puts that advice into action.

Her niece Elaine, age 23, has cystic fibrosis [see sidebar]—a life-threatening lung disorder that causes severe lung damage. As a result of cystic fibrosis, Elaine received a lung transplant. People with cystic fibrosis are always at risk for lung infections, and most people who have received transplants take powerful medications that can weaken their immune systems. Getting the flu can lead to serious complications like pneumonia that can be fatal for people like Elaine with chronic lung conditions and/or weakened immune systems.

 "With as much as Elaine's been through with cystic fibrosis, we need to make sure we help prevent additional health complications for her and not aggravate symptoms of her condition," says Sue. "This is where simple steps like getting an influenza vaccination can help." Along with her niece, Sue makes sure she gets vaccinated against the flu each and every year to help protect the health of her two sons. Sue is one of dozens of Americans featured in the American Lung Association's annual Faces of Influenza education campaign (www.facesofinfluenza.org) urging Americans from every walk of life to get their flu shots and stop the spread of potentially deadly influenza. Faces of Influenza is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.

Sue is well-known for making tough decisions to keep the community safe and protected, so given her niece's condition, increasing community awareness about the dangers of the flu and the need for immunization is an easy decision for her to make. "My law enforcement team partners every day with citizens to help keep our community secure from any kind of danger," says Sue. "The spread of a potentially deadly disease is an enormous danger to the residents of King County. Working together to increase community influenza immunization rates will help to prevent the spread of the disease among our friends and family."