A new study reveals that Haemophilus influenzae type b, which was once the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under five, is on the rise among adults, particularly seniors. The study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, shows that seniors have 12 times the risk of infection as adults 18 to 34.

A childhood vaccine for the disease rendered it almost unknown in children; however, according to lead author Matthew P. Rubach, attention should be paid to preventing the disease in the elderly, who had the highest incidence of any age group in the study. Syndromes associated with the disease include meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Rubach recommends that doctors be on alert for H. influenzae disease, which is more prevalent than and just as deadly as pneumococcal and meningococcal infections, which doctors tend to focus on.

Researchers examined data on 121 cases of invasive H. influenzae among adults 18 and older and found that adults 65 and older accounted for more than half of the cases. Of the infections in this subgroup, 29 percent were fatal.

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