THE BIG THREE: A doctor said HMPV is the most important virus 'you've never heard of' (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A little-known but potentially deadly virus with similar symptoms to Covid-19 and flu is on the rise and can cause lethal pneumonia, say medical experts. Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is one of the three biggest causes of respiratory infection, but most people are unaware of its existence.

Over the last four years, HMPV has become as prevalent as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and is the second most common cause of respiratory infections in children after RSV. People with the virus will likely have a cough, runny nose, sore throat, wheezing and nasal congestion – symptoms you'd expect to experience when suffering from a bout of Covid-19, reports The Mirror.

In severe cases, the virus can cause breathing issues, hoarseness, and pneumonia, with reports of some adults experiencing a worsening of their asthma. Testing for HMPV away from a hospital setting is rare, so most people who catch the bug are unaware they have it.


Dr John Williams, a paediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said: "It's the most important virus you've never heard of. Those (RSV, flu and HMPV) are the three major viruses.

"Those are the big three in kids and adults, the most likely to put people in the hospital and cause severe disease, most likely to sweep through nursing homes and make older people really sick and even kill them."

Although most people recover from their symptoms within seven to 10 days, those with weakened immune systems, respiratory illnesses, or asthma may develop serious conditions like bronchitis or pneumonia. Cases soared in the USA earlier this year, with 11 per cent of samples being positive for HMPV – up from 7 per cent before 2019.

Have you ever heard of HMPV before? Let us know in the comments below.

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