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Alternative Names Return to topH. influenzae meningitis; H. flu meningitis
Definition Return to top
Haemophilus influenzae meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
Causes Return to top
H. influenzae meningitis is caused by Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. This bacteria should not be confused with the disease influenza, an upper respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus.
Before the Hib vaccine became available, H. influenzae was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under 5 years of age. Since the introduction of the vaccine in the U.S., H. influenzae now occurs in less than 2 in 100,000 children. It still causes 5% - 10% of bacterial meningitis cases in adults.
H. influenzae meningitis may come after an upper respiratory infection. The infection usually spreads from the respiratory tract to the bloodstream, and then to the meninges. At the meninges, the bacteria produce infection and inflammation, causing serious illness and sometimes death.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
For any patient with meningitis, it is important to perform a lumbar puncture ("spinal tap"), in which spinal fluid (known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) is collected for testing.
Other tests include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment must be started as soon as meningitis is suspected. H. influenzae meningitis should be treated with antibiotics given through a vein (IV).
Steroid medication may also be used, mostly in children. Steroids are given to reduce hearing loss, which is a common complication of meningitis in children.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The likely outcome is good with early treatment. However, 3 - 5% of patients do not survive.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Contact your health care provider or go to an emergency room if you experience symptoms of H. influenzae or if you notice these symptoms in your child. Meningitis can quickly become life-threatening.
Prevention Return to top
To protect infants and young children:
To prevent infection after being exposed to H. influenzae meningitis:
References Return to top
Swartz MN. Meningitis: bacterial, viral, and other. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 437.Update Date: 9/28/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.