Just over 30 years ago, at 15 months of age, I was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis as a result of Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) infection. The vaccine that protects against Hib had not yet been introduced. At that time, Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among children under five years of age in the U.S. Each year, about 20,000 children under five years got severe Hib disease, and about 1,000 died. As many as 1 out of 5 children survivors of Hib meningitis end up with brain damage or become deaf.
Since vaccine introduction in the late 1980s, the number of cases of invasive Hib disease has decreased by more than 99 percent. By 2012, less than 50 U.S. cases of Hib disease occurred each year in children under five, and most cases we see today are the result of parents choosing not to vaccinate. While some parents may believe their child is not at risk of rare Hib infection, the bacteria still exists and can cause severe harm through the diseases it causes.
In honor of World Meningitis Day (April 24) and National Infant Immunization Week (April 18-25), I sat down with my beautiful mother to remember the “traumatic experience” she faced as her child overcame this life-threatening illness. Read more