What is Hib?

Hib is a bacterial infection caused by Haemophilus influenza type b that affects the airways, skin, ears, bones or brain. It is a serious disease that can cause deafness, brain damage and even death. Hib was once a common cause of life-threatening infections, especially in children under two years old. Hib vaccines were included in Australia’s immunisation schedule in 1993. Since then, Hib infections have gone down by more than 95%.

Hib is not related to the flu (influenza) which is caused by a virus.

Symptoms

Hib symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected and include:

  • fever
  • severe headache
  • a stiff neck
  • fits or seizures
  • severe drowsiness
  • difficulty waking up
  • loss of consciousness
  • shortness of breath, cough and breathing problems
  • restlessness
  • drooling
  • joint pain, swelling and reduced movement of joints
  • red, tender skin.

Symptoms usually start about 2 to 4 days after being infected with Hib. Symptoms can get worse very quickly and you may need urgent medical attention.

Who is at risk

Hib can affect anyone. The following people have a higher risk of infection:

  • babies
  • young children
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who have weakened immunise systems.

How it spreads

Hib spreads:

  • when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and you breathe it in
  • if you touch things that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.

Hib can live in the throats of healthy people without causing any symptoms. If you have a Hib infection, you can help stop the disease spreading by:

  • staying away from childcare, school, work or other places where you could spread the infection – your doctor will tell you when you are no longer infectious
  • washing your hands often
  • covering your coughs and sneezes.

Prevention

Hib can be prevented with vaccination.

If you have close contact with someone who has Hib, your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent you getting infected.

Find out more about getting vaccinated against Hib.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose Hib by:

  • checking your symptoms
  • testing your blood or the fluid from the area that is infected.

If you have Hib your doctor may be required to notify your state or territory health department.

Treatment

Hib is treated with antibiotics, usually in hospital. Some people will need treatment in intensive care.

Contacts

National Immunisation Hotline

Last updated: 
6 November 2018