Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) Disease

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 causes a variety of diseases, such as meningitis (inflammation of the coverings of the spinal column and brain), blood stream infections, pneumonia, arthritis, epiglottitis (inflammation of the upper airway or “croup”), and infection of other parts of the body. Since an effective vaccine has been available, very few cases of Hib disease are now diagnosed.

Return to Top

Who gets Hib disease?

Hib disease is most common in children 3 months to 3 years of age. It is unusual in persons over 5 years of age.

How is Hib disease spread?

Hib disease can be transmitted through contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person. Individuals can carry Hib and spread the disease without becoming ill themselves.

Return to Top

What are the symptoms of Hib disease?

Symptoms of Hib disease depend on the part of the body affected. Fever is present in all forms of Hib disease. Symptoms of meningitis also include stiff neck, headache and vomiting. Pneumonia symptoms include rapid breathing and a cough that produces mucus. Epiglottitis symptoms include noisy breathing and a very sore throat.

How soon do symptoms appear?

Symptoms generally appear less than 10 days after exposure, usually within two to four days.

Return to Top

How long is a person with Hib disease infectious?

The contagious period varies and, unless treated, can last for as long as the bacteria are present in the nose and throat, even after symptoms have disappeared. A person can no longer spread Hib disease after taking antibiotics for one to two days.

Does past infection with Hib disease make a person immune?

Children who develop Hib disease before 24 months of age might not be immune and should be immunized with the Hib vaccine. After the age of 2 years there may be some immunity following natural infection, and vaccination is generally not necessary.

Return to Top

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 might be carrying the bacterium.

What should I do if my child has been exposed to another child with Hib disease?

Some household members, other childcare facility attendees, and children under 4 years of age who are unimmunized or under-immunized and have recently been in close contact with an infected child, may need to take the antibiotic Rifampin to prevent further illness. Persons who have had casual contact such as in a classroom, office or factory setting, usually do not need any treatment. Consult your child’s physician for guidance.

Return to Top

What are the possible complications associated with Hib disease?

Serious Hib infections, such as meningitis and epiglottitis, can be fatal. Some patients who recover from Hib meningitis suffer long lasting neurologic problems, such as deafness.

What can be done to prevent the spread of Hib disease?

There are currently several Hib conjugate vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that all children be immunized with an approved Hib vaccine series beginning at 2 months of age. For recommendations for scheduling of subsequent doses, consult with your physician. Any licensed Hib conjugate vaccine may be used as a booster dose at age 12–15 months.

For further information about Hib disease, call the Vermont Department of Health, Epidemiology Field Unit, 800-640-4374 or 863-7240.

Return to Top