Talk to Patients About: Hib
By Sean Price Texas Medicine August 2019

Despite its name, Haemophilus influenzae type b – or Hib – doesn’t cause influenza. In the 1890s, doctors thought this bacteria might cause flu and – despite later research showing flu is caused by a virus – the name stuck.

But Hib does cause several severe illnesses, mostly among children under 5 years old. Meningitis is the most common.

Hib spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or anything else that spreads mucus and saliva. If the germs stay in the nose and throat, there’s usually no problem. But serious illness can arise when the germs travel to the lungs or bloodstream, resulting in invasive Hib disease.

Before the first Hib vaccine arrived in 1985, Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among U.S. children under 5 years old. About 20,000 U.S children in that age range got Hib disease each year, and 3% to 6% died. Thanks to the vaccine, cases of invasive Hib disease dropped by more than 99%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Four brands of vaccine are used today: ActHIB, Hiberix, PedvaxHIB, and Pentacel. Doses usually are given at 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months. Hib vaccine also can be used in older children and adults with weak immune systems.


Tex Med. 2019;115(8):47
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Last Updated On

August 02, 2019

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Sean Price


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Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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