Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacterium which can cause a range of very serious diseases, particularly in children under the age of 5. There are very few cases of Hib disease in older children and adults. 60% of cases of Hib disease result in meningitis, and 15% of cases result in epiglottitis. Hib can also cause severe pneumonia.
Before a vaccine was available, Hib disease was the main cause of meningitis in young children in the UK. Worldwide, it is still a major cause of death in children under 5. The World Health Organization estimates that Hib caused at least 8 million cases of serious disease in 2000. At least 250,000 young children die each year from Hib disease.
Three-year-old Matthew was hospitalised with Hib disease which almost killed him. He had not been vaccinated. Grateful thanks to PKIDs (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases) and Shot by Shot for permission to use this film.
Hib is spread through coughing, sneezing or close contact with someone who is infected or carrying the disease without knowing it. People (especially children under 4 years of age) can carry Hib bacteria in their nose and throat harmlessly, without showing signs of the disease. Before the Hib vaccine was introduced, about 4 in every 100 pre-school children carried the Hib bacteria in their throat. Since the vaccine was introduced in 2004, carriage rates have fallen below the level of detection in young children.
Before the introduction of the vaccine in 1992, around one in every 600 children developed some form of invasive Hib disease before their fifth birthday. Read how two sisters developed Hib meningitis independently , and how one lost both her legs to the disease.
In 1991, the year before the vaccine was introduced, there were 759 reported cases of invasive Hib in children under five in England. In 2014, there were only 2 confirmed cases in this age group.
Source: Public Health England