Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib)
Even though "influenzae" is part of its name, the Hib germ is a type of bacterium and does not cause influenza (the flu). Hib infections are much more serious.
The Hib germ causes three types of infections:
Asymptomatic (no symptoms): the Hib germ multiplies in the nose and throat but does not cause any symptoms
Surface: the Hib germ spreads along the respiratory (lungs) tract but does not invade the bloodstream. This causes ear, sinus, eye and lung (pneumonia) infections
Invasive: the Hib germ invades the bloodstream. This is the most severe form of infection and can lead to bacteremia (blood infection), meningitis (infection of the membranes and fluid that cover the brain and spinal cord), epiglottitis (infection in the throat near the voice box), joint and bone infections.
In severe cases, bacteremia can lead to shock . Meningitis can cause brain damage, learning problems, deafness and blindness. One out of 20 children with meningitis can die and 15% have serious disability (nerve damage, deafness). Epiglottitis can make it difficult for the child to breathe.
Signs and Symptoms
Hib infections do not always cause symptoms. Symptoms of non-invasive Hib infections may include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms of invasive Hib infections may include the following:
- Stiff or tender neck
- Joint aches or pains
- Joint swelling, redness or tenderness
- General feeling of unwell
- Skin that is very pale and cool to touch
- Confusion and/or a change in behaviour
- Very sore throat and difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or nausea
The Hib germ is not highly contagious and requires close, direct contact between people. It can be spread by coughing or sneezing, kissing or sharing drinks.
Treatment & Prevention
- Hib infections can be treated with antibiotics.
- If you think your child has symptoms of an invasive Hib infection – seek medical attention right away.
- Family/household members of a person with Hib infection will often be given antibiotics to prevent them from getting the infection.
- Get your child vaccinated. Infants and children are usually given the Hib vaccine at 2 months of age, and then three more times at 4, 6 and 18 months.
Invasive Hib infections must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.