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Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib)

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a severe bacterial infection which occurs mostly in infants and children under 5.

Since the introduction of Hib-containing vaccines, rates of Hib disease have dropped dramatically.

More detailed rates and trends for Hib in British Columbia are available in the Annual Summary of Reportable Diseases and the Reportable Disease Dashboard

Information for Health Professionals

Hib infection is caused by a germ (or bacteria) called Haemophilus influenzae type b. It usually infects children under 5 years of age. Before Hib vaccine became available, Hib used to be the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children aged 2 months to 5 years of age. Hib disease is now rare in BC because of routine childhood vaccination programs.

The majority of cases in children now occur in unvaccinated children or in children who are too young to have received their Hib vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months of age.


The infection usually starts suddenly with:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • lack of energy
  • confusion
  • headache
  • stiff neck

Hib can cause serious and life-threatening infections including meningitis (an infection of the lining that covers the brain) and septicemia (an infection of the blood).

Hib bacteria can also cause a serious and life-threatening infection in the throat called epiglottitis. The epiglottis is the tissue in the throat that covers and protects the larynx (windpipe) during swallowing. A child with this infection may have life-threatening difficulty breathing and may need an emergency operation so he doesn't suffocate or choke to death.

Hib infection is spread by coughing, sneezing or close face-to-face contact.

It can also be spread through saliva or spit when people kiss or share food, utensils, and drinks.

Babies and children can become sick through sharing soothers, bottles, or toys used by other children.

For every 20 children who get sick, one will die. Permanent complications of infection include brain damage. The brain damage may mean the child will develop an intellectual disability or become deaf or paralyzed.

Hospitalization is usually needed.

Diagnosis is based on cultures taken (most often of spinal fluid, blood, lung fluid, or joint fluid) to determine the infection is caused by Hib bacteria.

Antibiotics are given to the case. In order to prevent infection in close contacts of the case, certain contacts should also receive antibiotics to kill the Hib bacteria they may be carrying in their upper noses and throats.

  • The infection is prevented through vaccination that is offered at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months of age.
  • Wash hands well, especially after coughing and sneezing and before preparing foods or eating.
  • Don’t share food, drinks, utensils, etc.

SOURCE: Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) ( )
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