All About Babies

Aunt Shares Passionate Plea About Vaccination After Her Baby Niece Contracts Rare Infection

Hib flu, a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, can lead to more serious diseases like meningitis. 

child getting vaccinated Image Point Fr/shutterstock

An aunt named Alecia Rankin took to Facebook on December 3 to share a heart-wrenching photo and plea, which has since gone viral. According to Rankin, her then 7-week-old niece Aryn had contracted HIB flu -- a rare bacteria infection in the bloodstream. It's so rare, because vaccines usually guard against it.

“Reason #1736493983283763 to vaccinate your kids? My 7-week-old niece has HIB flu,” Rankin explained. "To clarify, HIB flu is not a type of influenza, but a bacterial infection in the bloodstream. “[It’s] so rare that her doctor hasn’t seen it in her career because this bacteria caused by HIB flu was all but eradicated by vaccines—the first being the one babies get at 2 months, which she hasn’t gotten yet. So before you decide not to vaccinate your children because ‘it’s your choice’ and ‘those who are vaccinated won’t be affected,’ remember that babies can get sick before they have the chance to get their vaccine.”

The post quickly went viral, racking up over 18K shares and 2.4K comments, many of which were cheering on Rankin's message. "If you love your children, vaccinate them. Period," one wrote. "thank you for reminding people of the important of vaccinations. Praying for your niece's complete recovery," another shared. 

The CDC confirms Rankin's statement about the infection, which is "spread person-to-person by direct contact or through respiratory droplets that are created when people cough or sneeze": "Haemophilus influenzae is a type of bacteria that mainly causes illness in babies and young children. These bacteria can cause infections in people of all ages ranging from mild, such as an ear infection, to severe, such as a bloodstream infection. In spite of the name, H. influenzae do not cause influenza (the 'flu'). There are six identifiable types of H. influenzae bacteria (a through f) and other non-identifiable types (called nontypeable). The one people are most familiar with is H. influenzae type b, or Hib, that can be prevented with a vaccine."

On a separate page, the CDC notes: "Make sure your child gets all doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine for the best protection against Hib disease. Hib bacteria can cause serious diseases like meningitis (an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord). ... There are two types of Hib vaccine for babies. With one vaccine, your child gets doses at 2, 4, and 6 months old; with the other vaccine, your child gets doses at 2 and 4 months old. With both vaccines, children need one booster shot when they are 12 through 15 months old."

As a follow-up, Rankin updated the post, noting, "Aryn got to go home today and thankfully is doing well. Our family appreciates the well wishes, thoughts and prayers." 

It's heartening too hear that this baby girl is on the mend. With hope, her aunt's passionate message will save other children from suffering a similar experience.