Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Hib is a bacteria which causes serious illness in young children. Hib disease has almost disappeared since the vaccine programme was introduced.

Hib was once the most common cause of life-threatening bacterial infection in children under 5 years old. Before the vaccine, 1 in every 350 children had the disease before they were 5 years old. 

How is it spread?

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 complications

Hib most often leads to:

  • meningitis, an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
  • epiglottitis, an infection and swelling in the throat that blocks the breathing passages.

It can also cause other forms of illness such as pneumonia, infection of the joints and skin infection. Although antibiotics can be used to treat the disease, children still die and some risk permanent damage to the brain and spinal cord.


It’s important to protect babies from Hib by getting them immunised on time. They’re not protected until they’ve had all 4 doses.

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.


This disease is covered on the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule. The vaccines used are Infanrix®-hexa and Hiberix® (PDF, 132 KB).

Making a decision about immunisation

Risks associated with Haemophilus influenzae type b

  • About 1 in 20 patients with meningitis dies and 1 in 3 survivors has permanent brain or nerve damage.
  • About 1 in 100 patients with epiglottitis dies.

Risks associated with the vaccine

  • Common reactions following immunisation include fever and tenderness, similar to other childhood vaccines. As with any vaccine, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs extremely rarely.

If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

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