Human metapneumovirus, HMPV: A virus you’ve probably never heard of is suddenly popping up in Australia – and thousands fear they could be infected right now
A potentially deadly respiratory virus that few people know about is surging in Australia, with at least 1,168 people infected last week in New South Wales alone.
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) can cause upper and lower respiratory illnesses in all age groups, but it poses a greater danger to young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.
Although it usually causes a mild infection similar to the common cold – with nasal congestion, cough, shortness of breath and fever – complications can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia and can be fatal, especially in immunocompromised people, such as people with cancer. . .
According to NSW Health data, only flu, which was detected in 1,424 people, was more prevalent in the state than HMPV last week.
Confirmed HMNPV cases increased from 648 three weeks ago to 1,008 a fortnight ago, before reaching 1,168 infections last week.
HMPV cases – which are higher in winter and early spring – are also likely to be underestimated, as tests are sometimes not carried out if a patient is already Covid or flu positive.
A potentially deadly virus that few people know about is surging in Australia, with 1,168 people infected last week in New South Wales alone. Two women are shown wearing masks
What is human metapneumovirus?
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) was discovered in 2001, although evidence suggests it had been circulating for several decades before it was officially identified.
As with similar viruses, it spreads through respiratory droplets.
Although anyone can contract the virus, young children and older people are more likely to contract it.
It usually causes a mild cold-like infection with symptoms such as nasal congestion, cough, shortness of breath, and fever.
But complications from HMPV can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia and can be fatal, especially in people who are immunocompromised, such as people with cancer.
“We are seeing not only an increase in the number of people, but also people who we thought would typically have mild illness, who tend to have more severe illness,” said Professor William Rawlinson of the University of New South Wales. Sydney Morning Herald.
According to the CSIRO, children under the age of five make up the largest group of patients hospitalized in Australia with respiratory viruses such as HMPV.
There is no antiviral medication to treat human metapneumovirus, but most people can manage their symptoms at home until they feel better – and most don’t even realize that HMPV is the cause of their discomfort, mistaking it for a cold.
But Professor Rawlinson warned that “people need to be aware that we are seeing a somewhat more serious disease (now caused by HMPV).
“But we’re also diagnosing it more now because we’re using much better tests,” he said.
Dr. John Williams, a pediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh who has devoted his career to researching vaccines and treatments for HMPV, said it is “the most important virus you’ve never heard of talk “.
Leigh Davison, 59, contracted HMPV in early April after attending a family reunion.
Her symptoms were so severe that she could no longer talk on the phone.
She said CNN: ‘I couldn’t say more than a few words. I had a violent cough, very violent, to the point where I was literally almost throwing up.
HMPV usually causes a mild, cold-like infection with symptoms such as a stuffy nose, cough, shortness of breath, and fever. But complications can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia and can be fatal (stock image)
The human metapneumovirus (pictured) can cause upper and lower respiratory illnesses in all age groups, but it poses a greater danger to young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
She was sure she had Covid, but after six negative rapid tests, she became nervous about pneumonia because she is immunocompromised.
Her doctor sent her to a hospital for tests which showed she had HMPV. ‘I was like, ‘What?’ Because it looks really dire,” she said.
The virus caused her to develop severe bronchitis and she was admitted to hospital for observation.
It took her a month to fully recover, and she said that of all the respiratory infections she’s had in her life, HMPV was “the worst I’ve ever had.”