Te mate haemophilus influenzae momo b Haemophilus influenzae disease type b (Hib)

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacteria that causes serious illness in young tamariki. Hib was once the most common cause of life-threatening bacterial infection in tamariki under 5 years old. It is now less common because of immunisation.

How Hib develops

Many people have haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria in their nose and throat without getting sick.

Illness only develops when the bacteria spread and create an infection in your body. This can happen when you are sick with another virus or if you have an ongoing disease such as chronic bronchitis.

The bacteria do not survive for long outside the body. So, it is difficult to spread the disease between people unless you have long and close contact.

The chance of getting or carrying the bacteria is higher if you:

  • live with preschool and school-aged siblings
  • live in a crowded household.

Covering your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough, and washing and drying your hands, can help reduce the chance of spreading bacteria. Avoid sharing items which may have saliva on them like drink bottles or lip balm.

  • When Hib bacteria infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord and cause swelling it is called Hib meningitis.

    In the early stages, you usually feel unwell, with fever, headache and vomiting, just like a cold or flu.

    Symptoms include:

    • stiff neck
    • fever
    • headache
    • eyes being more sensitive to light (photophobia)
    • confusion.

    In pēpi meningitis may cause:

    • poor eating and drinking
    • low alertness
    • vomiting
    • a high pitch cry.

    Small pēpi may become unable to settle and dislike being held. They may have a bulging fontanel (the soft spot on the top of your baby’s head).

    People who live may have long-term problems, such as hearing loss or developmental delay.

  • Epiglottis happens when the epiglottis (the small 'lid' that covers the windpipe) swells. This can be deadly.

    This can cause:

    • blocked airway — this can lead to suffocating
    • noisy breathing
    • difficulty swallowing
    • difficulty speaking
    • fever
    • drooling.

    Epiglottitis is a medical emergency that needs immediate medical attention.

    Tamariki with epiglottitis may sit with an extended neck and their tongue sticking out to help them breathe. This is life threatening.

  • Early stages of a lung or chest infection (pneumonia) can be like the flu, with:

    • aches
    • pains
    • fever
    • cough
    • difficulty breathing.
  • Joint infections (septic arthritis) typically cause:

    • extreme discomfort and difficulty using the infected joint
    • swollen, red and warm joint
    • fever.
  • Hib is one of the most common causes of severe infections around the eye (periorbital cellulitis).

    This usually starts with a slight redness of the skin near the eye. The redness spreads around the eye and gets darker. The whole area swells up until the eyelid closes.

  • Hib can cause a sinus infection. Symptoms include:

    • pain in the face around the sinuses
    • headache
    • feeling congested.

Complications of Hib

People who are treated and live after Hib meningitis infections can still have long-term complications, including:

  • deafness
  • brain damage.

Meningitis and epiglottitis can both cause death. Those who live can have permanent brain or nerve damage.

Diagnosing Hib

Healthcare providers will usually test for Hib bacteria by taking a sample of blood or spinal fluid, or by doing a skin swab. They will use these samples to check for the bacteria to confirm Hib.

Staying home

If you have Hib disease or have been in contact with someone with Hib disease, public health services will contact you to tell you what you need to do. They will support you with advice on how to keep yourself and your whānau safe during your illness.

If you do not hear from them, phone Healthline for more information.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116

You may have to isolate at home to avoid giving Hib to others.

Treating Hib

Early treatment is very important.

Hib infection is treated with antibiotics. You may also need to go to hospital. People with severe infections may need intensive care.

When Hib causes milder infections, like bronchitis or ear infections, healthcare providers may give antibiotics to prevent complications.

Preventing Hib

It is important to protect pēpi from Hib by getting them immunised on time. The vaccine is free on the immunisation schedule.

Find out about the vaccine, when to get it and who needs it.

Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hep B, and hib vaccine

Related topics

Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is similar to Hib and can cause meningitis and blood poisoning. Find out about symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is similar to Hib. Find out about symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.

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