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Immunization

Hib

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Annual number of cases (Hib pneumonia): 2-3 million

Annual number of deaths (Hib pneumonia): 500,000

Annual number of deaths (Hib meningitis): 30,000-40,000

The Disease:

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a major, largely under-reported, cause of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis in the developing world. Each year, an estimated 500,000 children die from Hib pneumonia. More than 30,000 die from Hib meningitis, mostly children under five, while others suffer brain damage or become deaf. The Hib bacteria can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, sending infected droplets into the air where they are inhaled by others. The risk of infection is higher in situations where children are in close contact for long periods of time.

Symptoms:

The symptoms vary depending on the type of infection. Diagnosing Hib pneumonia and Hib meningitis can be difficult because they can be confused with other illnesses. A child suffering from Hib pneumonia may have a fever, a mucus-producing cough and rapid breathing. In the case of bacterial meningitis - an inflammation around the brain and spinal cord - the symptoms may include fever, vomiting, stiff neck, headache and loss of appetite. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Others experience permanent brain damage and may have lifelong disabilities.

Immunization:

Several safe and effective Hib vaccines have been used in industrialized countries, where the disease has been virtually eliminated. Hib vaccines have not been used routinely in many developing countries because they have been unable to assess the impact of Hib on the population, and therefore are reluctant, or unable, to purchase the relatively high-priced vaccine.

Goal:

Assisting the poorest countries obtain Hib vaccine is one of the priorities of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization  (GAVI) and The Vaccine Fund. (http://www.vaccinealliance.org/)


GAVI Milestones:

By 2005, 50% of the poorest countries with high disease burdens and adequate delivery systems will have introduced the Hib vaccine.