There are no vaccines or drugs to treat HMPV yet  (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

There are no vaccines or drugs to treat HMPV yet (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

There has been an increase in a virus that exhibits signs comparable to the common cold, the flu, and Covid-19 called the Human metapneumovirus (HMPV).

According to a 2020 study published in the Lancet Global Health, more than 14 million HMPV infections, 600,000 hospitalisations, and more than 16,000 fatalities occurred in children under the age of five in 2018.

Many are still unaware of HMPV, so here are the key details.

What is Human metapneumovirus?

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a commonly found virus that can cause respiratory illness. Although the virus typically has no symptoms in healthy adults, it can cause serious sickness in older adults, those with asthma, babies, and children according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Humans, however, continue to become infected throughout their lifetimes since the illness only produces a minimal or ineffective immune response

Companies are developing vaccinations to protect against it. According to the website, Moderna, the manufacturer of the Covid-19 vaccine, has just ended an early trial of an mRNA vaccine against HMPV and parainfluenza.

According to respiratory virus surveillance systems run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of HMPV increased this spring in America.

The most vulnerable populations for these infections — young children and the elderly — were dominant in hospital intensive-care units. Nearly 11 per cent of those tested were HMPV positive at its peak in mid-March, a figure that is roughly 36 per cent higher than the typical, pre-pandemic seasonal peak of seven per cent test positivity.

Data for the UK is not known.

What are the symptoms?

According to the American Lung Association, the majority of HMPV patients experience moderate upper respiratory symptoms resembling a cold. These may consist of a cough, congestion in the nose or runny nose, a sore throat, aches, and fever.

A brief illness brought on by the virus typically lasts two to five days and resolves on its own. Patients may choose to treat their condition using over-the-counter medications, like a decongestant.

However, in extreme circumstances, the virus might cause asthma attacks, wheezing, and breathing problems. Anyone experiencing these symptoms is encouraged to visit their doctor because they might require a stronger medication or a temporary inhaler.

HMPV is transmitted by intimate contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, just like other respiratory viruses.

Some patients have seen the virus lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

How was Human metapneumovirus discovered?

The virus was first identified by scientists in the Netherlands in 2001.

Scientists took 28 samples from children in the Netherlands who had respiratory infections that were not explained. Even though several became critically unwell and needed mechanical ventilation, no known infections were found in their blood.

The samples were cultivated in diverse cell types from dogs, chickens, and monkeys before being examined under an electron microscope. They observed something that appeared to share structural similarities with the paramyxoviridae family of viruses, which are known to cause respiratory illnesses like measles, mumps, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

A detailed examination of the virus’s genome revealed a close relative in the form of the bird-infecting avian metapneumovirus. The novel pathogen was given the name human metapneumovirus. It probably evolved from birds to humans at some point, according to scientists.

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