Children under five are the largest group of patients who are hospitalised in Australia for respiratory viruses, according the CSIRO.

There is no medicinal treatment for hPMV. Antivirals do not work, and there are no vaccines available, although Moderna is working on that. Its hPMV vaccine, an mNRA-type, has just passed a phase one trial.

UNSW Professor William Rawlinson says HMPV is being detected in higher than normal numbers this year.

UNSW Professor William Rawlinson says HMPV is being detected in higher than normal numbers this year.Credit: Kate Geraghty

“Treatment really depends on whether you’re a chicken soup or an inhalation kind of person, but you would do as you would for other respiratory-type illnesses,” Rawlinson said.

“I think people need to be aware that we are seeing a little bit more severe illness, but we are also diagnosing it more now because we’re using much better testing.”

University of Sydney Virologist Dr John-Sebastian Eden said hMPV was the “forgotten cousin” of RSV and was “underappreciated” for how serious it could be.

“We’ve all had this extra education in respiratory virus since the pandemic. Before COVID everyone knew about the flu, but there are dozens of respiratory pathogens that have been infecting us for a long time,” Eden explained.

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“The flu and COVID are the big killers, the ones that cause major pandemics and deaths in big numbers. RSV we’ve known about for a long time, but there’s been a limited appreciation for how serious hMPV can be for, kids and the elderly as well.”

Eden said virus loads had “essentially been restored to seasonal patterns” as masking and other COVID protocols waned. He said RSV was always seen in big numbers during early winter, with influenza following midwinter and hMPV striking “with a big peak” as the seasons moved into spring.

“(hMPV) has always been the late winter/spring virus, particularly in NSW. What I find interesting about this season is after all these disruptions we’ve had, if you look at the last two years, everything has actually gone back into sync from where it was before COVID. I thought it would take a while to restore the seasonal patterns,” he said.

“Now, because of that education around the pandemic, people are waking up to (hMPV), and realising that it’s more than just flu that can strike us down, and we need to keep up all those protocols we learnt during the pandemic.”

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