January 24, 2009

Deadly Hib infection signals a comeback

Health officials in Minnesota say they're checking to see if deadly Hib infections have been reported in children in other states.

Minnesota last year recorded five cases of infection from Haemophilus influenzae Type B, including the death of a 7-month-old -- the first child Hib fatality in the state since 1991, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The dangerous bacterium's return may be a consequence of a temporary vaccine shortage and a resistance by some parents to immunize their children, the Post reported.

Parents need to know this disease is still around and that it is very dangerous, said Anne Schuchat, head of immunization at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and federal health officials want to know if Hib infections are occurring in other states and just have not been noticed, the Post reported.

The Hib vaccine prevents several types of infections, all of them potentially fatal, including meningitis and pneumonia. Hib infections fell by 99 percent nationwide after the vaccine became widely available in 1990.