Haemophilus Infections

Haemophilus (full name haemophilus influenzae) is a bacterium causing a wide range of infectious diseases, some of them even fatal. The haemophilus bacteria can be found in airways of many totally asymptomatic people and is easily spread by exhaled droplets.


Haemophilus is responsible for many infectious conditions and the situation depends on the affected body part.

Upper respiratory tract infections

In adults, haemophilus can cause quite trivial infections associated with cough, sore throat, fatigue and fever. In young children, however, haemophilus can cause a very severe infection of the laryngeal flap known as epiglottitis. Massive swelling of this area may obstruct the airways and cause shortness of breath with subsequent suffocation. This is especially dangerous when the affected child is put into horizontal position.


Haemophilus belongs among bacteria that can cause pneumonias. The infection has signs of a typical pnemonia including wet productive cough, fever, shortness of breath and general malaise.


Haemophilus an also cause purulent meningitis. Haemophilus meningitis is not typical in adults and it is more common in infants and toddlers. The symptoms include headache, stiff neck, vomiting and altered consciousness.

Middle ear infection (otitis media)

This is an infectious condition typically accompanied with ear pain, nausea and sometimes even vomiting. If the inflammation is not treated, it can cause a rupture of the eardrum and discharge of pus. Ruptured tympanic membrane may heal by a scar formation resulting in life-long auditory disorders.


The diagnosis is done according to clinical symptoms and microbiological examination. In upper respiratory tract infection we can perform a swab, in meningitis a spinal tap, in pneumonia sputum examination and in otitis media examination of collected pus.


The best prevention in present time is the vaccination. Haemophilus vaccine is a part of vaccination program in many developed countries. The vaccination effect is satisfactory and the number of epiglottitis cases falls sharply.


The best treatment method is administration of antibiotics. Haemophilus strains are usually sensitive to antibiotics of the cephalosporin class. Other therapy depends on the specific type of infection, for example paracentesis (puncture of the eardrum by a doctor) in otitis media.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources