ALS, a rare but deadly disease, can silence anyone. Here’s what to know.

Singer Roberta Flack in 2018. A representative for Flack has announced that she has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and can no longer sing. (Matt Licari/Invision/AP)

Anyone can be affected by the relatively rare amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to experts.

Notable athletes, politicians, entertainers and tens of thousands of Americans have all had to manage the disease. On Sunday, a representative for R&B singer Roberta Flack announced that she had been diagnosed with ALS, which has “made it impossible to sing.”

Flack had three hits top the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1970s. Her first was “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1972, then “Killing Me Softly With His Song” the next year, according to Billboard. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” in 1974 capped that run. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” charged back into the music scene when the Fugees covered the song. Their version won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal in 1997. Flack has won four Grammy awards herself. The Recording Academy’s National Trustees awarded Flack with its lifetime achievement award in 2020.

Despite her diagnosis, “Flack plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” her manager wrote.

ALS causes nerve cells to slow and die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A lack of functioning nerve cells robs people of the ability to trigger specific muscles, including the muscles around the lungs and mouth along with the vocal cords themselves, according to the ALS Association.

Here’s what ALS is and how it works:

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