Cause

Hib disease is caused by the Haemophilus influenzae type B bacteria, which has several different strains, each with a different capsule around the bacterium. Type B was the most common cause of meningitis in children before the vaccine; the other types are rare. One strain (non-typeable) is a common cause of ear infections in children. Other illnesses caused by H. influenzae type B bacteria include epiglottitis, septic arthritis, cellulitis, bac-teremia, and pneumonia.

The bacteria enters a child's nose and will cause meningitis if the bacteria travels through the blood into the membrane covering the brain (the meninges). Healthy children can carry the bacteria in their nose and throat secretions; the infection is spread by kissing or sharing possessions, drinks, food, and so on. Child-care workers can also spread the bacteria.

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