Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib)

Photomicrograph of Haemophilus influenzaeHaemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacteria and causes an infection that can lead to meningitis. This is a life-threatening infection of the lining around your spinal cord and brain. Contrary to the name, it has nothing to do with the flu. It is spread through the air or through close contact with an infected person. Children under the age of five are at most risk of developing complications from infection. If left untreated, it can cause severe illness.

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Symptoms

Symptoms associated with Hib vary based on the different diseases the infection causes. When Hib causes meningitis, symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever and a stiff neck. Some children may also experience extreme drowsiness, irritability, vomiting and loss of appetite. When Hib causes pneumonia, symptoms can include fever and difficulty breathing.

Causes

Hib is spread mainly through respiratory droplets in the air formed when coughing or sneezing. You can also catch it by touching an item that was previously touched by an infected person and then touching your eyes or mouth.

Treatment

There are antibiotics available to treat Hib. However, 1 in 20 children infected with Hib meningitis may die, even with treatment. Of those who survive, one in three may develop permanent brain damage.

Prevention

Hib infection can be prevented through immunization. Manitoba has a provincial immunization program, which provides free, publicly-funded vaccines to those who are eligible.

Other precautions can be taken, including practicing good hand hygiene, covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and avoiding sharing of personal items such as water bottles, lip gloss and cigarettes.


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