You’ve probably heard of seasonal respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or the flu. Like all of them, human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a common infection that can cause upper and lower respiratory disease in people of all ages.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Human Metapneumovirus?
hMPV is a common respiratory virus that scientists in the Netherlands identified in 2001. It is in the pneumoviridae family along with RSV. Though hMPV is similar to RSV, the flu, and the common cold, it is a separate virus.
Thanks to the broader use of molecular diagnostic testing, hMPV awareness can help us manage symptoms before they become more serious respiratory illnesses.
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Human Metapneumovirus Symptoms
hMPV symptoms can look similar to other respiratory infections that are common in the winter and spring. These include:
- Nasal congestion.
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Asthma flare-ups.
Mild symptoms of hMPV tend to last two to seven days and don’t pose any serious threat to your health. See your health care provider if you or your child experience:
- High fever.
- Symptoms that last over 14 days.
- Persistent shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough.
Severe cases of hMPV may progress to more serious health issues including:
These more serious illnesses can cause hospitalization, and recovering from them can take weeks or months.
Is hMPV Contagious?
How does someone get human metapneumovirus? Just like other respiratory viruses, hMPV is contagious and most likely spreads from an infected person to others through:
- Secretions from sneezing and coughing.
- Touching or shaking hands.
- Touching infected surfaces or objects then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
Who’s at Risk for hMPV?
While the human metapneumovirus can cause respiratory disease in patients of all ages, certain people are more at risk for severe infections. These include:
- Children under 5.
- Adults over 65.
- People with a history of lung diseases such as asthma, COPD, or emphysema.
- People with weakened immune systems.
- People undergoing chemotherapy.
- People who have recently undergone organ transplant surgery.
Human Metapneumovirus Treatment
There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral therapy to treat hMPV. However, there are ways to ease your symptoms and prevent contracting the virus in the future. You can manage your hMPV symptoms by:
- Drinking plenty of fluids.
- Taking decongestants to reduce sinus pressure.
- Taking over-the-counter medications (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen) to control pain and fever symptoms.
- Trying a temporary inhaler.
- Prioritizing rest so your body can recover faster.
In most cases, your doctor doesn’t need to get involved, and your symptoms should go away on their own. If you have trouble breathing or your symptoms progress over several days, you may have a more serious infection. In this case, you should contact your health care provider.
To diagnose a respiratory infection, your doctor may order lab tests to confirm the type of virus causing your illness. In severe hospitalized cases, doctors may insert a small, flexible camera into the lung. This is so they can capture a sample of fluid for testing.
Human Metapneumovirus Prevention
You can reduce the risk of developing hMPV by:
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cleaning possibly contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs and toys.
- Staying away from people who are sick.
If you think you are becoming sick, it’s important to take safety measures to keep others around you safe. This can include:
- Covering your nose and mouth with your elbow when coughing and sneezing.
- Avoiding sharing cups or eating utensils with others.
- Refraining from touching and kissing others.
- Wearing a mask if you need to go out in public.
- Staying home when you feel sick.
It’s important to stay aware of common viruses around the winter and spring, especially because they have similar symptoms. Taking care to prevent the contraction and spread of infections can help keep you and others around you safe.
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