Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) is an infection in young children under the age of five. In severe cases Hib disease can lead to death. Hib disease is caused by infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria. Infection can lead to meningitis and epiglottitis which sometimes can be fatal.1,2
Hib disease affects young children. In Australia these children are generally under the age of two. The symptoms depend on how the Hib infection affects the child. The bacterium enters the bloodstream, which can then cause different clinical forms of the disease. In some instances, Hib can cause meningitis, which is inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord. In this instance symptoms include fever, sensitivity to light, drowsiness and neck stiffness. The other risk is epiglottitis, which is inflammation of the larynx. Babies with epiglottitis are anxious, prone to dribble and have difficulty breath. Both meningitis and epiglottitis develop quickly and if untreated, can cause death.1,3,4
Hib bacteria can live harmlessly in the throat of healthy people. The bacteria are spread through contact with droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, in household-like settings. A person does not have to have symptoms to spread the bacteria.4
Hib disease is vaccine preventable and recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation. Vaccination is provided at two, four and six months of age. This is followed by a booster at 12 months. 2
A doctor can diagnose Hib disease based on symptoms and an examination. Tests, such as blood samples, can also be taken via testing the bacteria in a part of the body that is infected. Treatment may involve treatment with antibiotics, medicine to control fever, and fluids to ensure the child is hydrated. 4
Children with symptoms similar to those of Hib disease should visit a General Practitioner (GP) immediately. A GP or paediatrician can provide advice on Hib vaccinations.