H. influenzae meningitis is caused by Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. This illness is not the same as the flu (influenza), which is caused by a virus.
Before the Hib vaccine, H. influenzae was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under age 5. Since the vaccine became available in the United States, this type of meningitis occurs in less than 2 in 100,000 children.
H. influenzae meningitis may occur after an upper respiratory infection. The infection usually spreads from your lungs and airways to your blood, then the brain area.
Call the local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you suspect meningitis in a young child who has the following symptoms:
Persistent, unexplained fever
Call the local emergency number if you develop any of the serious symptoms listed above. Meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening illness.
To protect infants and young children:
Hib immunizations for infants and children are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Several types of Hib vaccine are available for children ages 2 months and older.
All unvaccinated family members and close contacts (especially in health care or school settings) of people with this type of meningitis should begin antibiotic treatment as soon as possible to prevent spread of the infection. Ask your health care provider about antibiotics during the first visit.
Close contacts in the same household, school, or day care center should be watched for early signs of the disease as soon as the first case is diagnosed. If two cases occur in a day care center, preventive antibiotics may be considered. Always use good hygiene habits, such as washing hands before and after changing a diaper, and after using the bathroom.
Prober CG, Dyner L. Central nervous system infections. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 595.
Thigpen MC, Whitney CG, Messonnier NE, et al. Emerging Infections Programs Network. Bacterial meningitis
in the United States, 1998-2007. N Engl J Med. 2011 May 26;364:2016-2025.
Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.