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Hib: Unprotected Story

Gasping for Life

True story

I didn't realize it, but the diseases that they give children shots for still exist. Every parent should know these diseases are still a threat.

"I didn't realize it, but the diseases that they give children shots for still exist," says Kelly Lacek. "Every parent should know these diseases are still a threat."

Kelly and her husband have three children. Ashley, the oldest, was fully vaccinated; Stephen, the middle child, had some but not all vaccinations; and Matthew, the youngest, had only his first round of shots. The Laceks stopped vaccinating their kids after a health care professional they trusted gave them misinformation that caused them not to trust the safety of childhood vaccines.

Acting on this misinformation almost ended in tragedy.

It was April 22, 2006, shortly after his third birthday, when Matthew started having trouble breathing. His parents rushed him to their local hospital. There, a seasoned physician recognized the disease as one he had seen often-more than 20 years ago. Matthew's windpipe was swollen because he was infected with Haemophilus influenzae type b—known as Hib.

When it comes to a Hib infection, time is of the essence. Without prompt treatment, Hib disease can be fatal. Matthew immediately had a tube inserted into his windpipe so he could breathe. He spent 6 days in the hospital and eventually made a complete recovery. The Laceks began catching Matthew up on his vaccinations soon afterward. Today, Matthew and Stephen are fully vaccinated.

Since the first Hib vaccine was introduced in the late 1980s, the number of cases in the United States has plummeted. As a result, many doctors have never seen a case of Hib disease.

"We were lucky the doctor at our local hospital recognized Hib," says Kelly. "We later spoke to pediatricians at a children's hospital, and they admitted they might not have identified it so quickly, because Hib is rare now, thanks to vaccination."

The family does not know who Matthew caught the disease from. What the Laceks do know now is that infant immunization is crucial. As Kelly puts it, "There is almost nothing worse than your child suffering and nearly dying from a disease that can be prevented with a vaccine."

This story is one of many recounted in the fact sheets series, Diseases & the Vaccines that Prevent Them.

For other true stories, see Vaccines: Unprotected Stories.


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