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Haemophilus influenza type b, Hib for short, is a type of bacteria that can live in the nose and throat. It can cause serious illness in young children but is preventable with vaccination.

All babies in New Zealand can be immunised against Hib as part of their free childhood immunisations at 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months and 15 months old. They are only fully immunised when they have had all four doses. Hib has almost completely disappeared since the vaccination programme was introduced. If you think your child may not have had these vaccinations, see your doctor.

If you are concerned about Hib, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

Hib bacteria are found in the nose and throat, usually without causing symptoms, and are spread through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing.

Hib very rarely makes people sick but when it does, it can cause serious infections that can have different symptoms.

Hib can cause infections of the lungs, top of the airway, the joints and the linings of the brain. These infections can especially affect children younger than five years old.

The most important signs to look for in children are high fever and looking very unwell. Other important signs can include:

Infected area

Signs to look for

Linings of the brain (meningitis)

Drowsiness, severe headache, vomiting, seizure, loss of appetite, neck stiffness, sensitivity to bright light.

Joints

A swollen joint, inability to walk.

Top of airway

Noisy and difficult breathing and/or swallowing, drooling.

If a child gets sick after being close to someone diagnosed with Hib disease, immediately take them to your doctor. Take this fact sheet with you and tell the doctor your child has been near someone with Hib.

Haemophilus influenzae type b is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to give advice about how to stop it spreading, and check that other people who have been in close contact with the person with the illness haven’t also been infected.

  • Hib (Ministry of Health)
  • Hib (Immunisation Advisory Centre)

Last updated 9.6.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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