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Haemophilus influenza type B

Hib; haemophilus; influenza; type; B; headache; convulsion; fit; seizure; meningitis; fever; stiff; neck; epiglottitis; infectious; diseases; immunise; immunisation; vaccine; immunize; vaccination ;

Before the introduction of Hib immunisation in 1993, the bacterial infection Haemophilus influenza type b was the most common cause of meningitis in young children (generally under the age of 2 years), and it was also the cause of epiglottitis which causes breathing problems.

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Before the introduction of Hib immunisation in 1993, the bacterial infection Haemophilus influenza type b was the most common cause of meningitis in young children (generally under the age of 2 years), and it was also the cause of epiglottitis which causes breathing problems.

Any young child (under the age of about 8 years) who has been in contact with someone with Hib meningitis or epiglottitis or other Hib disease (eg at home or at child care) should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible to discuss whether any preventive treatment is needed. It is likely that the school, child care centre or your local Communicable Diseases Unit will contact you if this treatment is needed.

Who is at risk?

  • Before the introduction of Hib immunisation in 1993 there were about 500 cases of Hib disease in Australian children each year, with 10 to 15 deaths, and 20-40 survivors with permanent brain damage (similar to measles and polio before the beginning of immunisation for these diseases.)
  • Since the introduction of Hib immunisation there has been a very large drop in the numbers of children who get Hib diseases.
  • All young children, especially those who spend time with other young children (eg in child care), are at risk from Hib.
  • Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at much greater risk of Hib diseases than non-Aboriginal children.
  • People over the age of 6 years rarely get sick due to Hib.
  • Children under 2 years who get sick due to Hib do not become immune to the infection. They still need to be protected by immunisation.

Signs and symptoms

  • Hib meningitis is very similar to other types of meningitis. Signs include fever, headache, stiff neck, irritability, crying, tiredness, vomiting and refusing food and drinks.
  • Hib epiglottitis causes noisy breathing, difficulty with breathing and swallowing, sore throat, fever, and causes the child to look very unwell. In some ways it is similar to croup, but the child is much more ill.

What you can do

  • If your child shows any of the signs of meningitis or severe breathing problems you should see your doctor immediately.
  • Hib diseases can be very serious and generally need hospital treatment.

Protecting children from Hib disease (Immunisation)

  • In Australia Hib vaccine is recommended for all infants from 2 months, and is free of charge for children between 0 and 5 years (see the topic 'Immunisation').
  • In different states of Australia there may be different schedules. All recommend the first Hib injection is given at 2 months
    • In South Australia Hib immunisation against Hib are given at 2, 4 and 6 months - Schedule
    • For other States - see Immunise Australia
  • Older children and adults can carry the Hib germs without becoming ill, so it will stay in the community and there will be an ongoing need for immunisation.
  • Hib disease is notifiable, so that actions can be taken to protect other children.

References

Immunise Australia
http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 10th Edition, 2013
'The Australian Immunisation Handbook',

Department of Health South Australia 
'Haemophilus Influenza Type b'

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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