Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Hib infection is a notifiable disease.

Hib causes a bacterial infection which may cause:

  • meningitis (infection of the tissues lining the brain)
  • epiglottitis (swelling of a part of the throat which may result in obstruction to breathing)
  • pneumonia (lung infection)
  • joint infection or cellulitis (infection of the tissue under the skin).

What are the symptoms?


In infants symptoms of meningitis include:

  • fever
  • refusing feeds
  • fretfulness
  • child is difficult to wake
  • high pitched or moaning cry
  • pale or blotchy skin.

In older children and adults symptoms of meningitis include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • neck stiffness and joint pains
  • drowsiness or confusion
  • discomfort on looking at bright lights.


Symptoms of epiglottitis include:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • dribbling (unable to swallow saliva)
  • difficulty in swallowing and breathing.

How is it spread?

The disease is spread directly from person-to-person; by contact with airborne droplets from the nose or throat, or indirectly, by contact with articles soiled with discharges from the nose or throat.

Incubation period: two to four days

Infectious period: As long as there are Hib bacteria present in the nose and throat. Hib is not able to be spread after one to two days of starting appropriate antibiotic therapy.


How is it prevented?

Vaccination against Hib is routinely given to all children starting at two months of age and is recommended for all children under five years of age. While immunisation is highly effective in protecting young children against serious Hib infections, occasional cases in vaccinated children still occur.


How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made by growing bacteria from the blood or CSF (fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord).


How is it treated?

A child with Hib will be treated in hospital with antibiotics.

A child with Hib infection may be given a course of an antibiotic called rifampicin in addition to the antibiotic used to treat the Hib infection. Rifampicin is used to eliminate Hib from the throat and prevents the spread of Hib to others.

The infected child cannot return to school or day care until they have completed a course of rifampicin and a medical certificate of recovery is received. Under certain circumstances, Public health authorities may recommend that rifampicin also be given to household members or staff or students of day care centres attended by a child with Hib infection.

Rifampicin is given to prevent the spread of Hib infection. However, it may not always be successful in preventing infection in the contacts of a case. Urgent medical attention should be sought if a contact (treated or untreated) develops any symptoms of Hib infection.