Cystic fibrosis (pronounced sis-tik fi-bro-sis) also known as CF is an inherited illness, which currently has no cure.
When someone has CF, the glands in their body that produce mucus become faulty and produce very thick sticky mucus which builds up in the CF sufferers lungs and blocks their airways which makes it easy for bacteria to grow, leading to serious recurring lung infections.
The build up of mucus in a CF sufferer also blocks the tubes in their pancreas, meaning the enzymes that help break down food as you eat, can’t reach their small intestine. Without these enzymes you can’t absorb fats and proteins properly. Because of this, people with cystic fibrosis have to take tablets called Creon with any food they eat.
Each CF sufferer has different symptoms and severities of the illness ranging from a mild strain of the illness that doesn’t show up until they’re adolescents or adults while others have serious lung and digestive problems.
One in 25 people of European descent carry the CF gene. The CF Trust campaigned for all children to be tested for CF when born with the heel prick test, and the National Screening Committee now recommended that all babies should be screened for cystic fibrosis.
Why can’t people with CF meet each other?
Because of the low immune system caused by CF, and the ability for bacteria to grow easily on their lungs, people with Cystic fibrosis can’t meet each other. This is because infection can be spread by passing between different individuals with CF – especially if they have a different strain of the illness.
Before we knew much about this condition, people with CF sometimes attended “CF Camps” and similar gatherings. Cystic fibrosis patients were grouped in the same areas in hospitals and equipment (such as nebulizers) was not sterilised between individual patients. This inevitably let to “cross-contamination” of illnesses in CF sufferers. Now we know more about CF, the patients are isolated from each other when in the hospital and sterilisation happens in between healthcare providers seeing one CF patient to another.