Past Flu Fighters
Every year people around the world work to study, track, and prevent flu. This page profiles some of these flu fighters and the work they are doing to contribute to flu prevention in the U.S. and around the world!
Beth Neuhaus, PhD, associate director of informatics, CDC Influenza Division
Meet flu fighter Dr. Beth Neuhaus, associate director of informatics in CDC’s Influenza Division. Dr. Neuhaus provides tireless and innovative leadership for a variety of informatics and advanced computer technology projects. She oversees how laboratory data from thousands of flu virus specimens are managed, shared and used to give us deeper insight into flu. Dr. Neuhaus and her team take the large amounts of detailed data collected in CDC’s laboratories and translate it into usable information that informs decisions on protecting the public’s health from the spread of seasonal and novel influenza viruses.
Xiyan Xu, MD, MS, team lead of CDC Influenza Division Virus Reference team
Meet flu fighter Dr. Xiyan Xu, lead of Virus Reference team in the Virology, Surveillance and Diagnosis branch within the Influenza division. Dr. Xu also serves as the deputy director of the Atlanta-based Collaborating Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Control of Influenza, one of six World Health Organization influenza collaborating centers and the largest source of information on human influenza viruses worldwide.
Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS) CDC Principal Deputy Director
Principal Deputy Director of CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, is one of the many veterans of CDC’s fight on flu. Combatting influenza is a hallmark of Dr. Schuchat’s 30 years at CDC. In reflecting on the 1918 influenza pandemic, Dr. Schuchat says studying what happened can help us to better prepare the nation and the world for similar scenarios in the future.
Daniel Jernigan, MD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS), Director, Influenza Division
Dr. Dan Jernigan, a captain in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), serves as director of the Influenza Division in CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. In this role, Jernigan is always working to prepare for the next influenza pandemic. “We are determined to intervene where we can to stop the spread of disease—that’s public health,” he says. For CDC’s Influenza Division, stopping the spread of disease means, “tracking influenza viruses and human illness with influenza viruses worldwide – be it from seasonal, avian, swine, or other novel flu viruses. We track illness, study the virus, assess the risk posed by the virus, make vaccine viruses that are then used to manufacture flu vaccines and help make policies for influenza prevention and treatment.”
Meet flu fighter Bethany Drapeau from Wagner, South Dakota, who lost her young daughter, Amiah, to flu in April 2017. Amiah was not vaccinated against the flu and Bethany now realizes that annual flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s chance of flu-related hospitalization and death. She now makes a point to educate her family, friends, and community about the seriousness of flu and the critical importance of annual flu vaccination for everyone, including healthy children and adults.
Meet flu fighter Donna Greyerbiehl of Ann Arbor, Michigan. For Donna, flu season is an especially scary time of year. Donna has a primary immunodeficiency disease called common variable immune deficiency (CVID). People with this disease have low levels of antibodies making it difficult to fight off germs like flu viruses. Compared to the general population, patients living with CVID and other diseases that can result in a weakened immune system are at an increased risk during flu season.
Meet flu fighter, Henry Lin, a retired Navy veteran and bariatric surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center, who lost his seven-year-old son, Trevor, to flu in November 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic. In Trevor’s honor, Henry shares his family’s story with others to help illustrate the potential dangers of flu and the importance of vaccination. He is also working with colleagues to help improve health care guidelines for treatment of children with flu in an effort to help prevent other families from experiencing a similar tragedy.
Meet flu fighter Serese Marotta, who has made it her life’s work to educate others about the dangers of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccination following the loss of her healthy five-year-old son, Joseph, to flu in October 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic. She currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Families Fighting Fluexternal icon, an organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing hospitalizations by protecting all children and their families against influenza. Through sharing her son’s story and her work on behalf of Families Fighting Flu, Serese hopes that others will realize that it’s not “just the flu”.
Meet flu fighter Chris Miller from Westfield, New Jersey, whose family was significantly impacted following his daughter, Caroline’s, flu-related hospitalization in December 2013. While Caroline was hospitalized, Chris made a promise to help make sure no other family has to experience the potential loss of a child to flu. He and his family now share their story to illustrate the seriousness of flu and help raise awareness by working with Families Fighting Fluexternal icon.
Meet flu fighter JoJo O’Neal, a radio host in Orlando. Diagnosed with asthma in 2004, her mission is to educate people about asthma and help patients learn how to breathe and live better with the condition, which includes getting an annual flu shot. In 2018 the flu knocked her out of action twice in one year, and she learned that asthma and the flu can be a dangerous combination. Now JoJo is working with the American Lung Association as a spokesperson for the MyShot campaign, educating adults 50 years of age and older about the importance of an annual flu vaccine.
Meet flu fighter Jim Piette, a woodworker, Midwestern dad and grandad. Fishing and hunting remained big parts of Jim’s life following his COPD diagnosis, but everything changed when he came down with the flu. He was home for five weeks, didn’t eat because he couldn’t breathe, became extremely weak and lost 35 pounds. He always had trouble breathing, but now he can’t do much without running out of air. This is why Jim is working with the American Lung Association as a spokesperson for the MyShot campaign, which educates adults 50 years of age and older about the potential complications from flu.
Meet flu fighter Gary Stein from Falls Church, Virginia, who after losing his four-year-old daughter, Jessica, to flu in February 2002, helped form Families Fighting Fluexternal icon in an effort to raise awareness about the seriousness of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccination. In 2002, annual flu vaccination was not recommended for healthy children of Jessica’s age. Gary’s advocacy, along with the help of the Families Fighting Flu organization and others, eventually led to the successful change in recommendation that now includes everyone six months and older.
Meet flu fighter Angie Wehrkamp from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who lost her healthy, two-year-old daughter, Gianna, to flu in January 2015. She never realized how dangerous flu could be and now works to raise awareness about the importance of annual flu vaccination through her work with the Sioux Falls Immunization Coalition, Families Fighting Fluexternal icon, and her personal project Gianna’s Trees. Angie hopes that by sharing her story she can help prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy.