According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Hib is a bacteria which can cause:
- severe inflammatory infections of the face, mouth, blood, epiglottis, joints, heart, bones, peritoneum and trachea.
This almost exclusively effects children less than 5 years of age. It can also effect people with weakened immune system. link It is transmitted through the respiratory tract from an infected person to susceptible individuals.
Meningitis is the most severe illness caused by Hib. Even with treatment, 1 in every 20 children with Hib meningitis will die. link Those who survive may have long-term problems, such as seizures, loss of hearing and learning disabilities.
Although this problem occurs worldwide the burden of Hib disease was considerably higher in resource-poor countries, prior to the introduction of the vaccine into their national immunization programmes.
How do people get Hib?
It is an airborne disease spread by coughing and sneezing or even breathing. The bacteria can live in the nose and throat, causing no harm. Sometimes the bacteria can enter the blood stream and spread to the brain or to the bone.
Vaccines are the only public health tool capable of preventing the majority of serious Hib disease. Hib vaccines are considered safe and efficacious even when administered in early infancy. link
Hib is diagnosed with a blood test or by performing a lumbar puncture to sample the fluid, known as cerebrospinal fluid, that sits around the brain and spinal cord.
The age at first dose and the number of primary doses should be set after consideration of the local epidemiology, vaccine presentation and how this fits into the overall routine immunization schedule. link
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates the addition of conjugate Hib vaccines in all infant immunization programmes. It is generally given as part of the 6 in 1 vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. The 6 in 1 vaccine protects against Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Hib, Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Polio and Tetanus. link. The CDC recommends Hib vaccination for all children younger than 2 years old. link. Australia provide the vaccination free to all children aged 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months. link
The effective and safe vaccine against Hib has been available since the 1980s and most but not all EU Member States have included Hib vaccine in their national immunisation programs. link. The UK have given the Hib vaccine to children since the early 1990’s, so infections in the UK are now rare in children. link
The vaccine should not be administered if the patient has had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any part of the vaccine.