Hib meningitis

Hib meningitis is a life-threatening infectious disease that causes inflammation of the layers that surround the brain and spinal cord. These layers are called the meninges – they help to protect the brain from injury and infection

Hib meningitis  - the facts

  • A routine vaccine is available to prevent Hib disease in the UK. This forms part of the Childhood Immunisation Programme (for babies) and has been hugely successful, reducing cases by 98%
  • Every year there are around 30 cases of Hib meningitis in the UK
  • Most people make a good recovery, but around 3% will die
  • 3 – 5% of survivors will suffer severe after-effects, such as deafness and long-term neurological complications.
  • Hib bacteria can also cause other infections such as epiglotittis (rapid swelling of the epiglottis), septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, pericarditis, cellulitis, bronchitis and otitis media

How Hib meningitis is caused

When the Hib bacteria invade, they can overcome the body’s defences and lead to infection. 

  • The bacteria can travel in the bloodstream to infect the meninges, causing meningitis, or whilst in the bloodstream they can cause septicaemia
  • When the bacteria infect the meninges, the blood vessels in the lining of the brain are damaged
  • This allows the bacteria to break through and infect the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the meninges become inflamed and pressure around the brain can cause nerve damage
  • As the bacteria multiply rapidly in the bloodstream, they begin to release poisons from their outer coating causing septicaemia
  • The toxins in the blood damage blood vessels and stop the vital flow of oxygen to the organs including the skin and underlying tissues and can cause widespread damage to the body

How is Hib meningitis treated?

Hib meningitis requires rapid admission to hospital and treatment with antibiotics. If treated promptly, Hib meningitis is less likely to become life threatening. 

Got a question about Hib meningitis?

We can help. Call our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 to speak to our experienced staff. Alternatively, email us at helpline@meningitisnow.org and we will come back to you as soon as we can. 

The Information Standard banner