Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a viral illness that affects the upper respiratory tract. Several viruses can cause common cold symptoms, including hMPV.
With hMPV, symptoms such as runny and stuffy nose are common. People may experience more serious effects in some cases, but most don't develop serious symptoms.
This article will take a closer look at the symptoms of human metapneumovirus, including frequent and rare symptoms and potential complications. It will also discuss when it might be time to seek medical help.
Most people who contract human metapneumovirus experience mild cold symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Infants with human metapneumovirus may also experience weight loss.
Most people with mild symptoms will feel better within a few days and won’t require medical treatment. This virus most often circulates in winter and spring.
Some people with human metapneumovirus may develop shortness of breath. This is more likely in people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma (a chronic lung disease with constricted and inflamed airways). People with asthma may also experience flare-ups of their symptoms if they contract hMPV.
Other uncommon symptoms may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing)
- Hoarse voice
Complications and Sub-Group Indications
People are more likely to develop complications from a cold caused by human metapneumovirus if they are immunocompromised (have reduced immune system function).
However, hMPV is less likely to cause serious complications compared to other respiratory infections.
In some people, hMPV can develop into:
- Pneumonia: Lung infection or inflammation of the airways and air sacs (alveoli)
- Bronchitis: Inflammation of the bronchi, which are the larger air tubes in the lungs
- Bronchiolitis: Inflammation of the smallest air tubes in the lungs (bronchioles)
What Is Bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the smallest air passages in the lungs, the bronchioles. It is often caused by viral lung infections that primarily affect young children.
Symptoms may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Intercostal retractions
- Widening of nostrils while breathing
- Fast breathing
- Bluish tinge to the skin, which signals the need for emergency treatment
Children and Infants
According to the American Lung Association, between 5% to 16% of children who contract human metapneumovirus develop pneumonia, a serious lower respiratory tract complication. Infants are particularly susceptible to this kind of complication.
Infants under 1 year who develop serious complications may have a decreased appetite and display poor feeding. Additionally, children and infants with lung disease or who are born prematurely have a higher risk of developing complications.
One study found lower respiratory tract infection by hMPV was more common in infants and children whose birthing parent had asthma.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a potentially serious complication of hMPV that can cause:
- Mucus-producing cough
- Shortness of breath
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Pain in the chest coughing or breathing deeply
- Appetite loss
People over age 75 are at greater risk of developing severe pneumonia from hMPV. Large outbreaks have been reported in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.
Symptoms of Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis (also called a chest cold) can cause symptoms such as:
- Coughing, with mucus or without
- Excessive fatigue
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Sore chest
Acute bronchitis develops because of an upper respiratory infection. Symptoms don't usually last longer than a few weeks.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by long-term lung inflammation and is more serious. People with chronic bronchitis are at higher risk of developing complications due to respiratory infections like human metapneumovirus.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Trouble breathing or shortness of breath are good indicators of when to seek medical attention. This may be a sign that the illness has developed into pneumonia or another lower respiratory tract infection.
Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a virus that causes the symptoms of the common cold. It’s one of many viruses that causes similar upper respiratory symptoms. Common symptoms are coughing, runny nose, and congestion. Some people may also experience shortness of breath.
People with weakened immune systems, such as older adults and infants, are more likely to develop complications from hMPV. But most people's symptoms go away in a few days without treatment.
A Word From Verywell
For most people, a cold is self-limiting and doesn’t cause serious symptoms. If you have a stuffy nose, cough, and a mild fever, chances are some rest and fluids will help you cope with discomfort and eventually lead you on the road to recovery.
It’s important to remember, though, that symptoms of COVID-19 can resemble those of the common cold. If you have plans to attend a large gathering or interact with people who may have weakened immune systems, it’s a good idea to take a COVID-19 test to check for a positive result.
American College of Chest Physicians CHEST Foundation. Human metapneumovirus (hMPV).
American Lung Association. Learn About human metapneumovirus (hMPV).
Peña SA, Davis SS, Lu X, et al. Severe respiratory illness associated with human metapneumovirus in nursing home, New Mexico, USA. Emerg Infect Dis. 2019;25(2):383-384. doi:10.3201/eid2502.181298
Illinois Department of Public Health. Human metapneumovirus.
Mount Sinai. Bronchiolitis.
Libster R, Esteban I, Bianchi A, et al. Role for maternal asthma in severe human metapneumovirus lung disease susceptibility in children. J Infect Dis. 2021;223(12):2072-2079. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiaa019
American Lung Association. Pneumonia symptoms and diagnosis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chest cold (Acute bronchitis).
American Lung Association. Chronic bronchitis.
American Lung Association. Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) symptoms and diagnosis.
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