The human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is one of the most common viral pathogens responsible for respiratory illness. It belongs to a group of similar viruses that include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and para-influenza virus. Human metapneumovirus can range in severity from asymptomatic to acute. Though the virus can occur at any age, the populations most at risk are the very young, patients with compromised immune systems and the elderly. It often presents as severe wheezing in paediatric patients, but can also cause pneumonia.
Human metapneumovirus was first identified in 2001. The widespread nature of the antibodies specific to HMPV, found in human blood samples from various laboratories, suggests that the viral pathogen has been a cause of respiratory infections in humans for over 50 years.
Human metapneumovirus most often causes upper respiratory symptoms, including nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, and sore throat. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, body aches, and vomiting may also result from HMPV. Less common conditions associated with the virus include bronchiolitis, conjunctivitis, otitis media, diarrhoea, and rash. Infection with the human metapneumovirus can worsen symptoms in patients with asthma, and may cause difficulty breathing and more severe respiratory illness in the very young, elderly or immune-compromised patients. The virus may also be present with no clinical manifestations.
The human metapneumovirus is most often spread through direct or close contact with respiratory secretions from those who have been infected. The virus can also be spread through contact with objects contaminated with respiratory secretions from an infected person. Once exposed, the person may develop symptoms within three to five days. Re-infection with HMPV may occur, though symptoms tend to be milder after the initial infection.
Treatment of human metapneumovirus may include medications to minimize symptoms. Fever reducers, antihistamines, and treatments to improve breathing can be particularly helpful. The spread of HMPV may be prevented through proper and frequent hand-washing, covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and prompt disposal of the contaminated tissue.
Since vaccine is not available at the moment, you can prevent human metapneumovirus by following the below guidelines:
- Build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate rest, reducing stress and avoid smoking.
- Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene.
- Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly.
- Wash hands after sneezing, coughing, toileting and before eating.
- Maintain good indoor ventilation and avoid crowded places where the ventilation is not good.
- Infected persons should avoid contact with children or those with low body resistance.