Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib)

What is Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) disease?

Until recently, Hib was one of the most important causes of bacterial infection in young children. Hib may cause a variety of diseases such as meningitis (inflammation of the coverings of the spinal column and brain), blood stream infections, pneumonia, and arthritis. Due to widespread use of Hib vaccine in children, few cases of Hib are reported each year. In 1999, there were 57 cases reported among New York City residents (rate of 0.8 cases per 100,000 persons).

Who gets Hib disease?

Hib disease is most common in children 3 months to 3 years of age. However, with increased use of the Hib vaccine, more cases are being seen in adults.

How is Hib spread?

Hib may be transmitted through contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person.

What are the symptoms of Hib disease?

Symptoms may include fever, lethargy, vomiting, and a stiff neck. Other symptoms depend upon the part of the body affected.

How soon after infection do symptoms appear?

Symptoms often appear less than 10 days after exposure, usually within 2 to 4 days.

When and for how long is a person able to spread Hib disease?

The contagious period varies and, unless treated, may persist for as long as the organism is present in the nose and throat, even after symptoms have disappeared.

How is Hib disease diagnosed?

Hib disease is diagnosed by isolating the bacteria from blood, spinal fluid, or other tissue.

What is the treatment for Hib disease?

Antibiotics such as ampicillin or chloramphenicol are generally used to treat serious infections. Rifampin is used to treat people who may be carrying the germ.

Does past infection with Hib make a person immune?

Yes. Persons who have had Hib disease are usually protected from repeat infections.

What are the possible complications associated with Hib disease?

Hib disease manifests itself in a variety of ways, most commonly meningitis. When Hib meningitis occurs, a certain proportion of those who recover may suffer long-lasting neurologic problems. In some instances, cases may be fatal.

How can Hib be prevented?

There are currently several Hib conjugate vaccines for use in children as early as 2 months of age. It is recommend that all children be immunized with an approved Hib vaccine beginning at 2 months of age or as soon as possible thereafter. Recommendations for scheduling of subsequent doses vary depending on the manufacturer. Therefore, it is important to consult with your physician.

Last updated October 2002