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Haemophilus influenzae type b

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) is a bacterial infection that can cause a number of serious illnesses such as pneumonia, blood poisoning and meningitis, especially in young children (see box).

This is a disease that is preventable by vaccination.

Many of the children who get Hib infections become very ill and need hospital care. All of the illnesses caused by Hib can kill if they are not treated quickly. For example, about 1 child in 20 who develop Hib meningitis dies.


Vaccinating children against Hib in Ireland has been very successful in cutting rates of Hib disease.

The Hib vaccine is offered to children at two, four and six months of age as part of the six in one vaccine.

A booster dose is offered at 13 months of age at the same time as the MenC vaccine, to provide longer-term protection

Useful Links www.immunisation.ie

Infections caused by Hib

  • Hib meningitis. Meningitis is inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms in babies include a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the baby's head), drowsiness and a high-pitched, moaning cry. As a result of meningitis some children develop long-term neurological problems, such as hearing disorders, seizures (fits) or problems with eyesight. See the Health A-Z topic about meningitis for more information.
  • Pneumonia. This is a bacterial infection of the lungs that can cause coughing, breathing difficulties and chest pain (see the Health A-Z topic about pneumonia for more information).
  • Pericarditis. This is inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart (see the Health A-Z topic about pericarditis for more information). It causes chest pain and breathing difficulties and can be fatal.
  • Epiglottitis. Epiglottitis is when the epiglottis, the flap that covers the entrance to your windpipe, becomes inflamed (see the Health A-Z topic about epiglottitis for more information). It can cause noisy and painful breathing. Epiglottitis can cause blockage of the windpipe- a medical emergency.
  • Septic arthritis. This infection causes fever and painful, hot and swollen joints (see the Health A-Z topic about arthritis for more information).
  • Cellulitis. This infection causes sore, painful skin (see the Health A-Z topic about cellulitis for more information).

Meningitis is the most common illness caused by Hib.

Some of these infections can lead to blood poisoning, which can be fatal.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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