A baby crawling towards the camera with its parents sitting in the background.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) causes a bacterial infection that can lead to serious illness, especially in young children. A course of vaccines is recommended for babies and young children to help protect them from the harm caused by Hib.

Did you know?

  • There are 6 known types of Haemophilus influenzae (types a to f). Only type b has a vaccine.
  • There has been a greater than 95% reduction in Hib cases since Hib vaccines were included on the immunisation schedule in 19931.
A mother looking at her baby which she is holding who is looking towards the camera.

What is it?

The haemophilus influenzae bacterium is naturally found in the upper respiratory tract. Of the 6 types of the bacteria (types a to f), type b (Hib) is almost always responsible for serious infection in young children, usually in those less than 2 years old.

Hib infection can cause serious, life-threatening complications such as pneumonia (lung swelling), meningitis (swelling around the brain and spinal cord) and epiglottitis (swelling of the lid that covers the windpipe).

What are the symptoms?

It can take between 2 and 4 days after infection for symptoms to develop, and the symptoms can vary depending on which part of the body is infected. They may include:

  • meningitis (swelling around the brain and spinal cord) – high fever, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness lethargy, loss of alertness, irritability and poor appetite
  • pneumonia (lung swelling) – fever, coughing, chills, drowsiness, chest pain and difficulty breathing
  • epiglottitis (swelling of the lid that covers the windpipe) – breathing and swallowing difficulties, high fever and drooling.

If left untreated, meningitis, pneumonia and epiglottitis can lead to lifelong disability or death.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following a Hib infection. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about Hib.

How is it spread?

The Hib bacteria can spread from person to person through contact with infected respiratory droplets (for example by coughing or sneezing). If the bacteria enters the lungs or bloodstream, it can cause serious illness.

The bacteria lives in the upper respiratory tract of most healthy people without causing illness. These people are known as carriers and can pass the bacteria on to others.

Who is at risk?

Hib disease mainly affects children, with those under 2 years of age at greatest risk of complications. From around 2 years of age, children progressively gain natural immunity through everyday contact with Hib which is why it is not common beyond 5 years of age. 

Other people may also be at risk of Hib infection. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

Who should be vaccinated?

  • The Hib vaccine is recommended and provided free for children as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). It is usually given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with a booster at 18 months; and is usually given as a combination vaccine.  Other individuals may also be at risk of Hib disease, and immunisation may be recommended. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

    Immunisation schedule

    •  Immunisation funded via the National Immunisation Program (NIP)
    Diseases Birth 2 months 4 months 6 months 12 months 18 months 4 years 10 to <15 years 15-19 years
    Chickenpox (varicella)+                  
    A second dose of varicella vaccine is recommended any time between 4 years of age and less than 14 years, at least 4 weeks after the first dose. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Diphtheria                  
     
    Hepatitis A+                  
    Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine are recommended and NIP-funded for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at 12 months and 18 months living in certain areas. A two-dose schedule (which is not funded) is also recommended for some medically at-risk children and adolescents. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Hepatitis B+                  
    An additional booster vaccine is recommended at 12 months of age for preterm infants who were born at less than 32 weeks gestation or whose birth weight was under 2000 grams. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Haemophilus influenzae
    type b (Hib)
                     
     
    Human Papillomavirus (HPV)                  
     
    Measles                  
     
    Meningococcal ACWY disease+                  
    The meningococcal ACWY vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. A free dose is given at 12 months of age. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
    Meningococcal B disease+                  
    The meningococcal B vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
    Mumps                  
     
    Pneumococcal disease+                  
    An additional dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended and NIP-funded at 6 months of age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Two additional doses (at 6 months and 4 years) are recommended and NIP-funded for medically-at risk children. Further doses may be recommended and funded during adolescence depending on risk – speak to your doctor to learn more.
    Polio                  
     
    Rotavirus                  
     
    Rubella                  
     
    Tetanus                  
     
    Whooping cough (pertussis)                  
     
    Annual flu+      
     

     

     

     

     

     
    The influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all people aged 6 months and over. Influenza vaccine is funded under the NIP for those at or above 6 months of age with certain medical conditions and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to under 5 years and those aged at or above 15 years. Learn more about who should receive flu vaccination.
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Treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat Hib infection. Hospitalisation may be required depending on the severity of disease.

Important information

For further information about Hib immunisation in your area, speak to your doctor.

Some side effects may be experienced following immunisation. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your doctor.

References

  1. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition (2017 update). Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health. https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/haemophilus-influenzae-type-b-hib (accessed September 2018).    

AUS/VAC/0074/18 Date of Approval: November 2018