Haemophilus influenza type b, also called Hib, is a bacterial disease that causes meningitis and other health complications. The Hib vaccine is recommended for infants.
Who gets it?
Hib disease is caused by a bacteria that is linked to meningitis. There are six different types of these bacteria (a through f). The type b organism is the type against that the Hib vaccine protects against. The most common type of Hib disease is meningitis and the bacteria is spread through person-to-person contact and body fluids. All infants should receive the Hib vaccine as part of their routine immunization. More than one does of the HIb vaccine can be given. Since Hib disease is rare in children over 5 years of age, the vaccine is not usually recommended for children over the age of 5 unless they are at increased risk of contracted Hib. High-risk individuals include those with asplenia (e.g., sickle cell disease, postsplenectomy), immunodeficiency, immunosuppression from cancer chemotherapy, and HIV infection.
Those who should not get the vaccine include:
- Anyone who has a serious reaction to a Hib vaccination previously
- Children younger than six weeks (as this may reduce the infant's response to further doses)
- People with moderate to sever acute illness
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms may start out like a normal cold -- sore throat, coughing and fever. It will also include a stiff neck and a decrease in mental awareness. More serious conditions include swelling of the throat, which can lead to permanent blockage, an infection of the membranes covering the brain.
The Hib vaccine is broken into components of the bacteria, requiring more than one dose. This does not mean you will contract the disease from the vaccine itself. The side effects are very moderate -- from tenderness, swelling and warmth at the injection site, to a fever in infants.
What you need to know
If a person did contract Hib disease, it can be treated through antibiotics (usually for approximately 10 days) and usually requires hospitalization to monitor the progress. Even with antibiotic treatment, there is still a slight chance that an infant can die from the disease.