14-Month-Old Dies In Michigan, Health Officials Confirm Hib Meningitis

A 14-month-old child in Montcalm County died from Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) type b meningitis, according to the Mid-Michigan District Health Department officials. Audrey Rose Congdon, daughter of Mitchell L. and Tara L. (Kailing) Congdon, was taken to a health facility in Mecosta County Thursday to be seen for sudden, minor, flu-like symptoms. The Howard City baby quickly worsened after being discharged and was found dead Friday morning.

Her body was taken to Sparrow in Lansing for an autopsy, and health officials have confirmed that Audrey died from Hib meningitis, according to Big Rapids Daily News.

“Officials say Audrey contracted the haemophilus influenzae bacteria which is extremely rare and deadly. They emphasize, however, that the bacteria is not very contagious.”

A vaccine is available to infants for Hib type B. According to the CDC, infants are given a primary series of Hib vaccinations at two, four, and six months, and a booster is suggested between 12 and 15 months of age. While the media has reported that the Hib vaccination status of the child was unknown, Tara Congdon reportedly stated on Facebook that the child was actually vaccinated against the bacteria.

The toddler’s funeral was scheduled to take place Tuesday in Big Rapids. The parents reportedly do not wish to be contacted at this time. Audrey’s grandfather, Michael Kilmer, told 24 Hour News 8 that the family is devastated.

“The parents and the grandparents, we’re all very devastated because this took effect within a one-day period. We all loved her to death. She was a little lovebug. She was wonderful. Whenever a child dies, it’s never, ever, ever easy. We’re all pretty torn up about it.”

Now, health officials are trying to calm concerns within the community.

“But the thing that should reassure people — it’s only intimate contact. You have to do something like kiss the baby to get the disease. So you’ll know the family real well, and you will have heard if the baby died. People don’t need to worry that this is some random thing. That’s not it. You’d know this family.”

According to the CDC, however, Hib can be transmitted through droplets from coughing and sneezing as well. The CDC states that usually, Hib will pass through the nose and throat causing no harm. Hib can cause severe infection, usually in children below the age of five. Hib infection, like what killed Audrey, is “exceptionally rare,” according to health officials. In 2013, the CDC showed only 725 deaths from Hib disease. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, before the vaccine was available, roughly 20,000 American children under 5-years-old got Hib disease each year and between 600 and 1200 of them died from it. Many of these cases were seen in the first month of life among preterm or low-birth weight infants.

The infection reportedly occurs in less than two out of every 100,000 American children. According to the CDC, people who contract Hib disease usually have another condition such as sickle cell disease, asplenia (no spleen), a compromised immune system from another disease such as HIV or from chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or have been the recipient of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

“An estimated 10% of the total burden of disease among children aged <5 years occurred in American Indian and Alaska Native children,” a journal of the Infectious Disease Society of America reports. Rates of HIB disease among Alaska Natives is higher than elsewhere in the United States.

The CDC has a list of signs and symptoms of HIB infection. A fever, stiffness of the neck, and light sensitivity, are among the most common symptoms of Hib infection like Audrey’s. Less common symptoms of Hib infection can include osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, infection around the heart, cellulitis around the eye, UTI, and abscesses.

Family members and others who have had close contact with Audrey have all been tested, and none have reportedly tested positive for Hib infection, according to health officials in Michigan.

[Photo from obituary and CDC]