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Hib - Fact Sheet for Parents

Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them

Español: Enfermedad por Hib

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What is Hib disease?

Hib disease is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b. Babies and children younger than 5 years old are most at risk for Hib disease. It can cause lifelong disability and be deadly. The Hib vaccine prevents Hib disease.

What are the symptoms of Hib disease?

Hib disease causes different symptoms depending on which part of the body it affects.

The most common type of Hib disease is meningitis. This is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It causes the following:

  • Fever and headache
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Pain when looking into bright lights

In babies, meningitis may cause poor eating and drinking, low alertness, and vomiting.

Hib disease can also cause the following:

  • Throat swelling that makes it hard to breathe
  • Joint infection
  • Skin infection
  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Bone infection

How serious is Hib disease?

Hib disease is very dangerous. Most children with Hib disease need care in the hospital. Even with treatment, as many as 1 out of 20 children with Hib meningitis dies.

As many as 1 out of 5 children who survive Hib meningitis will have brain damage or become deaf.

How does Hib disease spread?

Hib spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Usually, the Hib bacteria stay in a person’s nose and throat and do not cause illness. But if the bacteria spread into the lungs or blood, the person will get very sick.

Spread of Hib is common among family members and in child care centers.

What is the Hib vaccine?

The Hib vaccine is a shot that protects against Hib disease. The vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria.

Almost all children (at least 95 children out of 100) who get all doses of the vaccine will be protected from Hib disease.

Why should my child get the Hib vaccine?

Getting your child the Hib vaccine protects him against serious, and even deadly, illness. It is rare for a child who has had the Hib vaccine to get Hib disease.

When should my child get the Hib vaccine?

Children should get three or four doses of the Hib vaccine at the following ages for best protection:

  • One dose at 2 months;
  • A second dose at 4 months;
  • For some brands, one dose at 6 months; and
  • A final dose at 12 through 15 months of age.

It is safe to get the Hib vaccine at the same time as other vaccines, even for babies.

Is the Hib vaccine safe?

The Hib vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing Hib disease. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. But severe side effects from the Hib vaccine are very rare.

What can I do to protect my child from Hib disease? Vaccinate your child on time. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have questions. Keep a record of your child’s vaccinations to make sure your child is up-to-date.If my child does not get the Hib vaccine, will he get the Hib disease?

Without the vaccine, your child has a much greater chance of getting Hib disease. Most cases of Hib disease in the U.S. today are in children who have not had the Hib vaccine.

Before the Hib vaccine, Hib disease was the most common cause of meningitis in children younger than 5 years in the U.S. About 20,000 children got severe Hib disease each year, and about1,000 died.

Today, with the vaccine, cases of severe Hib disease have dropped by more than 99%. Many more children would get sick from Hib if people stopped vaccinating.

Where can I learn more about the Hib vaccine?

To learn more about the Hib vaccine or other vaccines, talk to your child’s doctor.

Call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or go to the CDC Vaccines web site and check out the following resources:


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