Healthy Living

What Is Hib Meningitis?

What Is Hib Meningitis?

Key Takeaways

  • Hib meningitis can be contracted through close contact with droplets coming from the throat or mucus of the patient. 
  • The Hib bacteria is only found in human beings.
  • If you recover from Hib meningitis disease, you are likely to suffer from epilepsy, brain damage, co-ordination difficulties and deafness. 

Caused by inflammation of the surrounding layers of the spinal cord and the brain, Hib meningitis is an infectious disease that is life-threatening. Known as meninges, these layers assist in protecting the brain from infection and injury. Children who are under four years old are the most affected population. It is hard to find Hib meningitis nowadays in people of all ages. In the United States, it normally affects adults who spend significant time with children such as parents and grandparents.

How can you contract Hib meningitis?

Found only in human beings, Hib bacteria live in the throat and nose. If the bacteria spreads to other parts of the body, it can become deadly. 

A patient with an Hib infection can spread it to others via contact with droplets coming from the throat or mucus. Therefore, when someone who has the bacteria coughs or sneezes he or she can expose others to the infection. Hib bacteria cannot survive for long outside the body of a human being because they are very fragile. It is difficult to identify a person carrying Hib bacteria since many of these people do not fall sick. Hib bacteria were very common in small children before the introduction of the Hib vaccine.

It is unknown how long the Hib incubation period is, but it is believed that it could take just a few days for symptoms to show after a person has contracted the bacteria.

How can you identify Hib meningitis?

Hib bacteria can cause a number of serious illnesses, the most common being meningitis. Symptoms of Hib meningitis are similar to other types of bacterial meningitis.

  • In the initial stages, one can suffer from fever, vomiting and headache just like any other mild sickness.
  • Stiff neck and sensitivity to bright light are more common symptoms of meningitis.
  • With the worsening of the disease, the one affected becomes very sleepy, and it is hard to wake them up.
  • A person with Hib meningitis will become delirious or confused and will likely have behavioral fits.
  • Children refuse to eat and become irritable with a moaning cry when picked up.
  • The skin might turn blue in color or blotchy.
  • In babies with the disease, there may be bulging or tensing of the soft spot on the head.

A rash, which is common in a meningococcal infection, does not usually occur in people suffering from Hib meningitis. Being the most common cause of meningitis, a meningococcal infection normally occurs together with blood poisoning (septicemia).

Affects of Hib bacteria 

Although Hib meningitis can be fatal, at least 95 percent of those suffering from it can recover in today’s industrialized world. One in every eight survivors of Hib meningitis may suffer from long-term neurological complications like epilepsy, brain damage, co-ordination difficulties and deafness. According to studies, 45 percent of survivors have neurological complications.

Other severe diseases caused by Hib bacteria include:

  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin)
  • Epiglotittis (inflammation of the throat)
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Septicemia (blood infection or poisoning) 
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining)
  • Arthritis (inflammation of the joints) 

Mild illnesses like ear infections and respiratory infections can also be caused by the Hib bacteria.

Who is more susceptible to Hib meningitis?     

Only a minority of people who contract Hib bacteria fall sick, and it is not clearly known why. People whose immune systems are deficient have a higher chance of getting the disease. All cases are reported to the Public Health Doctor by doctors, although the disease rarely occurs these days. Members of a family in which a case of Hib meningitis has been reported may have a higher risk of contracting the disease depending on their ages and whether they have received the Hib vaccination.

Treatment for Hib meningitis

Cases of Hib meningitis should be quickly admitted to the hospital and treated with antibiotics. Hib meningitis can be cured if there is quick treatment.   

Hib Vaccine

Also known as Men C, the Hib vaccine is a single injection administered to babies who are one year old to enhance their protection against meningitis C and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b). Meningitis C and Hib are severe infections and are life-threatening. 

Who should get the Hib vaccine?

All babies should get this vaccine when they are one year old. It is part of the “NHS childhood vaccination program”. 

Is the Hib vaccine safe?

The Hib vaccine is very safe. It is inactivated, meaning it does not have any organisms that are alive, so there are no chances of the baby getting infected with the diseases which the vaccine protects against. Very few side effects come with the vaccine.

The effectiveness of the Hib vaccine

The booster for Hib vaccine is very effective and protects babies at the time they are most susceptible to these sicknesses. As a result of the vaccine, the rates of Men C and Hib meningitis are now at their lowest levels.

How it works

In the Hib vaccine, there are bits of bacteria that lead to the disorder it protects against. If a baby interacts with these germs, the antibodies their body generates after receiving the vaccine will battle the infection to prevent the disease from developing.

How long is a Hib patient infectious?

The infectious time of a patient varies. A patient will likely be infectious for as long as the bacteria are in the throat and nose, even if the symptoms clear. The body may be able to kill the bacteria on its own, but this will take longer than it will take for medication to kill the bacteria. After using antibiotics for one or two days, the bacteria should be decreased to the point where a Hib patient can no longer spread the disease.

What to do if you have interacted with someone infected by Hib

The antibiotic Rifampin can be prescribed to fight the Hib bacteria before it becomes a serious disease. So, if you have been in contact with someone infected with Hib, visit a doctor immediately. 

Complications associated with the Hib disease

Severe Hib infections like epiglotittis and meningitis can be life threatening. Certain individuals who get cured from Hib meningitis suffer from permanent neurologic complications like deafness.

How to prevent the Hib disease from spreading?

It is recommended that all babies receive the approved Hib vaccine program from the age of two months. Consult with your doctor about the right time for your baby to receive the vaccine.

How is Hib meningitis caused?

Your body’s defenses can be defeated when the Hib bacteria attacks, and this may result in an infection.

  • The bacteria can go into the bloodstream and cause septicemia or can infect the meninges, resulting in meningitis.
  • The blood vessels in the brains’ lining are damaged when the bacteria infect the meninges.
  • This enables the bacteria to enter and infect the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) and the meninges get inflamed and nerve damage can result from the pressure in the brain.
  • The bacteria start to release poisons resulting in septicemia, as they rapidly multiply in the bloodstream.
  • The blood vessels are damaged by the toxins in the blood and the oxygen flow to the organs like the skin is stopped resulting in widespread damage to your body.