Childhood Hib Numbers Down
Ten years ago, Hib was the most common cause of bacterial
meningitis. The introduction of using routine vaccinations has now practically
eliminated Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) in young children. The excellent
results of this prevention initiative has made it an incredible success story.
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal
cord. This infection can be caused by either a viral or a bacterial infection.
The effects of viral meningitis are important and serious, but in many cases the
symptoms are so mild that the patient does not even see a physician.
The more critical form is when the infection is caused by bacteria. Bacterial
meningitis is such a serious infection that it invariably comes to medical
attention. It often leads to brain damage, hearing loss, recurrent convulsions,
or even death. These complications occur in 20 to 30 percent of those who
survive a bout of bacterial meningitis.
In 1988, vaccines against Hib were introduced. Prior to that time, an average of
148 out of every 100,000 children less than 5 years of age developed meningitis.
For the years 1995 and 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
reported just 2.2 incidents per 100,000 children, a very significant reduction.
Prevention advocacy efforts by The Arc are part of the reason for the successful
reduction of Hib disease. In the early days after the vaccines became available,
our national unit, complemented by our California chapter, undertook active
preventive roles by sponsoring a major media campaign which reached millions of
broadcast listeners, and print readers. The effort included direct mailings and
telecon followup to the professional community, and day care operators.
The leading causes of bacterial meningitis are currently Streptococcus
pneumonia, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria according to the CDC.