Haemophilus lnfluenzae Type B (Hib) – Symptoms and Treatment

What is Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) disease?

Haemophilus influenzae type B disease is also commonly known as Hib disease. Hib disease is a group of illnessese caused by a Gram-negative bacterium, Haemophilus influenzae. When the latter infects young children, it can cause a fatal brain infection.

Its name can be misleadingly linked with influenza. But, the disease is not influenza itself. However, it is associated with other diseases; Hib disease may lead to other diseases like meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, epiglottitis and septic arthritis. So, in fact, these Hib-caused infections are regrouped under one name: Hib disease.


Hib disease can mostly affect anyone. It is no more as common as it used to be thanks to the development of a vaccine to neutralise the bacteria. Long ago, many more children would meet with death as a result of infection by Haemophilus influenzae. Those who did not get vaccines against the pathogen of the Hib disease are more vulnerabl, like elderly people and partially vaccinated children, as well as those with a compromised immune system.

Transmission of Hib Disease

Hib disease is an air-borne illness; it is transmitted via respiratory secretions like mucus, or droplets from the nose and throat.

Symptoms of Hib Disease

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Stiffness felt in the neck

Symptoms may start appearing one week after having been infected, or less.

Since the H. influenzae bacterium leads to a variety of diseases, some of which are even more serious, infection by it can lead to death. If Hib meningitis occurs, the risk of death is high enough: 1 in 20 children affected die, while 10 to 30 % of the survivors experience permanent brain damage.

Treatment for Hib Disease

Antibiotics are used to get rid of the bacteria and their noxious effects. Cefotaxime, ceftriaxone, or ampicillin in combination with chloramphenicol are used to treat the disease. Those who fear having been exposed to the bacteria may take rifampin as a preventive measure to avoid the growth and spread of the bacteria in their bodies.

An infected person may remain contagious for as long as the bacteria are in his system. Even after symptoms have subsided, the bacteria may remain in the nose and throat and hence causing the person to be contagious.

Immunity to Hib Disease

Children under two years old may not develop immunity against the bacteria. They may, hence, be infected again if exposed to the pathogens. Those who are older than two years of age are more likely to develop immunity against it.


It has been recommended that all children having reached two months of age are vaccinated with an approved Hib vaccine.

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