Explained | What is HMPV? Causes & symptoms of the respiratory virus

A severe HMPV infection may result in bronchitis or pneumonia
Last Updated : 02 June 2023, 09:42 IST
Last Updated : 02 June 2023, 09:42 IST

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While cases of Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) were decreasing across the US, infections of another respiratory virus, called human metapneumovirus (HMPV), were on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The percentage of tests positive for HMPV surged to 17.5 per cent for antigen tests and 9.6 per cent for PCR tests at the end of March, Xinhua news agency reported citing the latest CDC data.

During the four years before the pandemic, the weekly percentage of HMPV positive tests never reached higher than 7.7 per cent, the data revealed.

What is HMPV?

HMPV can impair a person’s upper and lower respiratory tracts regardless of age, although older individuals, children, and those with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to infections, according to a report from Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A severe HMPV infection may result in bronchitis or pneumonia. The time it takes to recover from HMPV varies on how serious the condition is and normally takes three to six days to incubate. It has similarities with other respiratory conditions like cold.

Discovered in 2001, HMPV belongs to the Pneumoviridae family along with RSV.

HMPV can cause upper and lower respiratory disease in people of all ages, especially among young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Surveillance data from CDC's National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System shows HMPV to be most active during late winter and spring in temperate climates.

Who might get the Human Metapneumovirus?

  • Children under 5.
  • People who are immunocompromised, such as those who take cancer medications or have had organ transplants.
  • Newborn.
  • People over 65.
  • People with asthma who use steroids.
  • People with COPD.

Causes of HMPV:

HMPV is known to create seasonal outbreaks, mainly in the winter and spring and it can cause serious respiratory diseases. It also spreads from an infected person when they :

  • Cough
  • Shake hands
  • Sneeze
  • Touch objects or surfaces having the germ

Symptoms of HMPV:

According to the Cleveland Clinic report, Human Metapneumovirus produces symptoms similar to the common cold. One may experience the following :

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Dyspnea

Treatment and precautions for HMPV:

  • Drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Don’t rub your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.
  • Take mild pain killers.
  • Try decongestants to reduce sinus pressure.
  • Avoid sharing your eating utensils with others.

Does India need to worry?

As quoted by WION, Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California in San Francisco said, “Unlike the novel coronavirus and its variant that cause covid, HMPV is a respiratory virus that has been around for decades. Hopefully in the future, we will actually see advances against human metapneumovirus. But we’ve been living with it for a long time. This is not one that is going to cause a pandemic.”

(With IANS inputs)

Published 02 June 2023, 09:42 IST

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