International travel and health

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Cause

The bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Transmission

Respiratory droplets.

Nature of the disease

Haemophilus influenzae type b is a common cause of pneumonia and meningitis and of a number of other serious and potentially lifethreatening conditions, including epiglottitis, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis and septicaemia. Rarely occurring in infants under 3 months of age or children after the age of 5 years, the disease burden is highest between 4 and 18 months of age. Hib is the dominant cause of sporadic (non-epidemic) bacterial meningitis in this age group, and is frequently associated with severe neurological sequelae despite prompt and adequate antibiotic treatment.

Geographical distribution

It is estimated that each year Hib causes 7–8 million cases of pneumonia and hundreds of thousands of deaths, mainly in developing countries. The disease has practically disappeared in countries where routine Hib vaccination of children is carried out.

Risk for travellers

All unprotected children are at risk, at least up to the age of 5 years.

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