What is the Hib/MenC injection?
Two key conditions immunised against by the NHS’ childhood vaccination programme are Haemophilus influenza B and meningitis C. A combination injection is offered as part of the scheme, and in this article we look at what this particular vaccination does.
What are Hib and MenC?
MenC is the popular abbreviation of meningitis C, a disease caused by a group of bacteria known as meningococcal bacteria class C. These microorganisms cause a characteristic inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord which can be life threatening. This lining is called the meninges, and is a protective structure meant to protect the brain and spinal cord from abrupt contact with surrounding bone. This swelling of the meninges causes the characteristic stiff neck and headache which is indicative of meningitis.
When inflamed, the meninges can pose a serious threat to the health of a sufferer. Meningitis can lead to lifelong disabilities through brain damage, or be fatal, depending on how quickly and effectively treatment is administered. Unfortunately meningitis can be a very acute condition, which means that its onset can be extremely quick, presenting with symptoms that can be difficult to link to meningitis straight away (e.g. headache and vomit). Fort these reasons, prevention is hugely important, and the hope is that in the future there will be effective vaccines like the MenC jab against all kinds of bacterial and viral meningitis.
Hib is an abbreviation for Haemophilus influenza type B, another bacterial infection with more pervasive effects on the body. Hib infections can actually cause a number of different Conditions, all of which can potentially lead to a bacterial infection of the blood popularly known as blood poisoning, which can be fatal.
Conditions caused by Hib include:
- Meningitis – a condition identical to that caused by meningococcal bacteria immunised against by the MenC job.
- Epiglottitis – an infection of a structure that sits on top of the wind pipe to prevent the accidental passage of food into the lungs (the epiglottis).
- Pneumonia – a particularly serious infection amongst young children and elderly, pneumonia is an infection of the respiratory system.
- Cellulitis – affects the skin and the structures and layers of tissue directly underneath.
- Pericarditis – an infection of the pericardium, a protective lining around the heart.
- Septic arthritis – bacterial infection affecting joints.
As the scope of these different conditions shows, Hib can cause a variety of different infections which can be dangerous in themselves or lead to potentially fatal blood poisoning.
The Hib/MenC jab
As the previous section has hopefully shown, both Hib and MenC can be extremely dangerous conditions with severe consequences. Prevention is a priority for both conditions, and fortunately they can both be effectively immunised against through an injection offered as part of the childhood immunisation programme.
This vaccine has been extremely effective at reducing the prevalence of both Hib and MenC here in the UK. Hib is actually vaccinated against a number of times, and the Hib/MenC jab is usually the final immunisation in the schedule prescribed by the NHS. The Hib vaccine is first given as part of the 5-in-1 injection provided at 2, 3, and 4 months, and the final dose is through the Hib/MenC jab offered at 12 months.
MenC is also vaccinated against prior to the Hib/MenC injection. The first two doses are single injections administered at 3 and 4 months of age, and the Hib/MenC jab is the final dose offered at 12 months.
Multiple doses of both vaccines are needed to induce lasting immunity. The MenC component of the vaccine is made up of components extracted from the coating of the bacteria, making it extremely safe as you can’t get an infection from the vaccine, but also requiring the use of multiple doses to achieve adequate immunity.
The Hib component is made up of inactivated or killed Haemophilus influenza bacteria, and follows the same general principles in that it is safe and requires multiple doses.
Preventative vaccination is an important step for conditions like Hib and MenC, and the introduction of the combination Hib/MenC injection has hugely reduced the incidence of both diseases here in the UK, and indeed parts of the world where effective immunisation has been introduced.
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