Haemophilus Influenzae Type B also known simply as ‘Hib’ is a bacterium which particularly affects young children and can result in many serious illnesses.
Infections of Hib are fairly ‘rare’ in the UK these days, however at one time they were quite common. Since the routine vaccination against Hib which has been given to babies and infants since 1992, the number of cases have dramatically dropped in Britain.
The serious infections which Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) can cause include:
- Septicaemia – This is basically blood poisoning
- Meningitis – This is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord
- Septic Arthritis – This is an infection of the joints
- Pneumonia – An infection of the lungs
- Pericarditis – This is an infection of the lining which surrounds the heart
- Epiglottitis – This is an infection of the epiglottis, this is the ‘flap’ which covers the entrance of the windpipe
- Cellulitis – An infection of the skin and tissues
- Osteomyelitis – This is an infection of the bones
Nowadays the number of Hib cases are small and they usually affect adults who have long-term health conditions. While children can get Hib, it’s becoming rarer due to the NHS’s childhood vaccination programme. If children do develop Hib infections they tend to become seriously ill and usually need treatment in hospital by antibiotics.
How is HIB spread to other people?
Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) is usually ‘spread’ in the same way that the common cold or the flu is spread.
Hib bacteria ‘lives’ in the throats and noses of health people, and will tend to not cause any symptoms. Just like coughing or sneezing when somebody has the flu or cold, Hib can be spread in the same manner.
Generally, there’s millions of tiny droplets which get released when a person coughs or sneezes, this easily spreads the infection onto other people. If a person ‘breathes in’ these infected droplets or gets them onto their hands from a polluted surface, the bacteria can then spread into the body and causing one of the Hib infections listed above.
Does the Hib Vaccine Work?
Since its introduction in 1992, the Hib vaccination has been part of the NHS’s childhood vaccine programme. The National Health Service state that the Hib vaccine has been “very effective in cutting rates of Hib Infections.”
To re-enforce this claim, there was around 800 known cases in England each year during the 1990s, now this is around 20 per year. As you can see that’s a massive drop in the statistics.
The Hib vaccine is routinely offered by the NHS to all babies. Usually they will have three separate doses of the vaccine. This is generally at the ages of 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. It’s not uncommon for other vaccines to take place at the same time, as Hib is usually part of the 5-in-1 vaccination.
To help infants further, a ‘booster’ dose is usually offered when the child is around one-year old. This is part of the Hib/MenC booster vaccine. This is designed to offer a longer protection period and help the body build up its natural defence system.
For more information about the Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) vaccination, please speak to your Doctor.