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Back To Vidyya Hib Disease Overlooked As A Health Concern Among Minority Children

National Medical Association Underscores The Need For Improved Vaccination Rates

According to data presented today at the National Medical Association (NMA) 2000 Annual Convention, Haemophilus influenzae type b, also know as Hib disease, continues to remain a serious health concern, primarily among African American and Hispanic children under five years of age, due to the continued circulation of Hib and under-vaccination.

"Even though the introduction of the Hib vaccine has dramatically reduced the number of cases in the United States, we have observed that the circulation and overall incidence of Hib disease is still higher among African Americans and Hispanics than in any other racial or ethnic group," said Rudolph Jackson, M.D., professor of pediatrics, Morehouse School of Medicine, at the NMA convention.

Hib disease is caused by bacteria that generally affects children under five years of age -- 60 percent among children younger than 12 months. Meningitis is the most common manifestation of Hib, accounting for 50-65 percent of all cases.

Among African Americans, the incidence of Hib meningitis continues to be two to four times higher than for white children. Additionally, the incidence of all invasive Hib disease is four times higher in African Americans than in Whites and has also been shown to be higher in Hispanics. Sixty percent of invasive disease still occurs among children younger than 12 months and the peak occurrence is between 6 to 11 months of age.

Common factors of Hib-infected populations include household overcrowding, daycare attendance, low socioeconomic status, low parental education levels and school-aged siblings.

Globally, Hib is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, a disease that contributes to as many as 600,000 deaths a year worldwide in children younger than five years of age. Bacterial meningitis may lead to mental retardation, hearing loss, partial blindness, learning disabilities, motor skill abnormalities, and seizures and, at its most severe, death in children.

"In addition to the disease's continued circulation and carriage, some of the reasons why we believe Hib still exists have been due to gaps in the coordination, support and documentation of immunization programs and disparities in immunization among inner-city communities and ethnic groups," said Jackson. "Parents and healthcare providers, among these groups, are key to eliminating Hib by making sure all young children receive the Hib vaccine series according to the recommended schedule," he added. According to the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) United States National Immunization survey in 1998, only 75.3 percent of Hispanic and 72.9 percent of African American versus 82.2 percent of White children received a complete Hib vaccination series.

"Intensive educational/public policy efforts targeting clinicians and parents are vital for supporting a comprehensive immunization program that will increase vaccination rates and disease awareness," said Beverly Gaines, M.D., chair, Pediatric Section of the NMA. "To help in this effort, the Pediatric Section of the NMA have joined with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in an ongoing public health educational effort to achieve complete and timely immunization," she added.


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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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