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What is Haemophilus Influenzae type B ?

Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) is a bacteria which can cause life-threatening infections in children.

What is the worldwide disease burden of Hib ?

At least 3 million cases of severe Hib disease and 400,000-700,000 deaths in young children probably occur annually worldwide. The children who servive may suffer from long-term complications of the nervous system and may even be left with permanent brain damage.

How serious are Hib related diseases in India ?

In India, studies have estimated the annual incidence of Hib meningitis to be between 50 to 60 in every 100,000 children below the age of 5 years.

What diseases does it cause ?

The Hib bacterium is responsible for many serious diseases, the most common of which are Meningitis and Pneumonia. Hib bacterium can also cause infection of bone, joints, heart and blood.

What are the most serious complications of Hib disease ?

The most common long-term effects of HIB disease are language disorders affecting around 15% of children. About 11% experience some form of hearing loss with a similar percentage suffering from mental retardation. Between 2% and 8% will be affected by motor abnormalities, eg. Spasticity or vision impairment including some blindness.

How is Hib infection spread ?

Hib bacteria are transmitted by close contact from child to child in droplets expelled when an infected child coughs or sneezes. Hib also spreads through shared toys and other objects that children put in their mouths. All infants are exposed to Hib infections, but this risk is increased where groups of children are gathered, such as nursery play school.

Who is most at risk ?

Hib disease is most common in infants and children. The most common infections,meningitis and pneumonia , occur in children under 5 year of age, and children between 4 and 12 months of age are most at risk. In Southeast Asia over half of Hib meningitis infections occur during the first six months of life. Babies with meningitis or pneumonia can become seriously ill very quickly and can die if they are not treated straight away.

When are infants most at risk ?

At birth, maternal antibodies are adequate to protect an infant. Between 2 and 3 months of age, the level of these antibodies fall, and incidence of Hib infection increases. By own immunity, and Hib disease occurs rarely in older children and adults.

Are Hib infections treatable ?

Yes. Antibiotic treatment is available for the diseases caused by Hib. But in approximately one-third of all patients who survive invasive Hib disease, antibiotics fail to prevent long-tern neurological disorders. Furthermore, finding of more and more strains of Hib which have developed resistance against the commonly used antibiotics is a source of world wide concern.The other way of combating Hib caused diseases is through vaccination.

Is vaccination against Hib safe and effective ?

Yes. In extensive studies conducted, the newer vaccines have been found to be very effective and have shown minimal and mainly short term adverse reactions in vaccines.

Are there any recommendations for Hib vaccinations ?

The 1998 WHO position paper on Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccines concludes that “view of the demonstrated safety and efficacy of the Hib conjugate vaccines, Hib vaccine should be included, as appropriate to national capacities and priorities, in routine infant immunization programmes.”In India, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics IAP) have recommended the use of Hib vaccines as one of the newer vaccines.

How many doses are needed and when should they be given ?

Generally, all children should receive Hib vaccine in infancy. It can be administered at the same time as DTP and Hepatitis-B vaccine.The first dose should be given after the age of 6 weeks. Three doses to be given and intervals between doses should not be less than 1 month.

Can a Hib vaccine be taken alongwith any other vaccine ?

Smithkline Beecham has recently launched a combination vaccine which protect against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis and Hepatitis-B in one vaccination schedule. Smithkline Beecham`s combination vaccine can be mixed in the same injection with Smithkline Beecham`s Hib vaccine to get protection against all five diseases with just three injections.

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