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
"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.