Human Metapneumovirus (HMPV)

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a virus that usually causes symptoms similar to a cold. You might cough or wheeze, have a runny nose or a sore throat. Most cases are mild, but young children, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for serious illness. HMPV is common — most people get it before they turn 5.


Symptoms of hMPV include fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throat and rash.
The symptoms of human metapneumovirus are often similar to the common cold.

What is human metapneumovirus (HMPV)?

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a virus that usually causes symptoms similar to the common cold. It often causes upper respiratory infections, but it can sometimes cause lower respiratory infections like pneumonia, asthma flare-ups or make chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse. HMPV infections are more common in the winter and early spring.

Most people get HMPV before they turn 5. You can get HMPV again, but symptoms are usually mild after your first infection.

Is human metapneumovirus just a cold?

Human metapneumovirus most often causes symptoms similar to a cold, but some people can get very sick. You’re more likely to get severely sick the first time you get HMPV, which is why young kids have a greater risk for serious illness. You get some protection (immunity) from your first infection and then are more likely to have mild, cold-like symptoms if you get another HMPV infection. Adults over 65 and people with breathing problems or a weakened immune system may also get severe symptoms.

How common is human metapneumovirus?

Researchers estimate that about 10% to 12% of respiratory illnesses in children are caused by HMPV. Most cases are mild, but about 5% to 16% of children will develop a lower respiratory tract infection like pneumonia.

Is human metapneumovirus the same as RSV?

It’s not the same, but human metapneumovirus is similar to RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). It’s part of the same genus — or scientific grouping — as RSV (Pneumovirus), and can cause similar symptoms. The peak age for severe illness from HMPV is between 6 and 12 months, but RSV is more likely to cause severe illness in infants younger than 6 months.


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Symptoms and Causes

Symptoms of HMPV include fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throat and rash.
The symptoms of human metapneumovirus are often similar to the common cold.

What are the symptoms of human metapneumovirus?

Symptoms of human metapneumovirus include:

What causes a human metapneumovirus infection?

A virus — a small germ that uses your cells to make more copies of itself — causes HMPV. It’s part of the same group of viruses that cause RSV, measles and mumps.

How is human metapneumovirus transmitted?

HMPV spreads through direct contact with someone who has it or from touching things contaminated with the virus. For instance:

  • Coughing and sneezing.
  • Shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
  • Touching surfaces or objects like phones, door handles, keyboards or toys.

What are the risk factors for human metapneumovirus?

Anyone can get HMPV, but you’re at a higher risk for severe illness if you:

  • Are younger than 5 (especially premature infants) or older than 65.
  • Have a weakened immune system (from conditions like HIV, cancer or autoimmune disorders, or from medications that suppress your immune system).
  • Have asthma or COPD.


What are the complications of human metapneumovirus?

Sometimes HMPV causes complications. These might be serious and require you to be hospitalized. They include:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is human metapneumovirus diagnosed?

Healthcare providers usually diagnose HMPV based on your symptoms and health history. They might use a soft-tipped stick (swab) to get a sample from your nose or throat. A lab tests the sample for viruses and other infections. Keep in mind that you probably won’t be tested for HMPV unless you have serious symptoms.

Sometimes, your provider may also do a bronchoscopy or chest X-rays to look for changes in the airways of your lungs.


Management and Treatment

How is human metapneumovirus treated?

There aren’t any antiviral medications that treat human metapneumovirus. Most people can manage their symptoms at home until they feel better.

If you or your child are severely ill, you might need to be admitted to the hospital. There, healthcare providers can monitor your condition and help prevent you from getting sicker. They might treat you with:

  • Oxygen therapy. If you’re having a hard time breathing, a provider may give you extra oxygen through a tube in your nose or mask on your face.
  • IV fluids. Fluids delivered directly to your vein (IV) can keep you hydrated.
  • Corticosteroids. Steroids can reduce inflammation and might ease some of your symptoms.

Do you need antibiotics for human metapneumovirus?

No. Antibiotics only treat bacteria. Since HMPV is a virus, antibiotics won’t get rid of it. Sometimes people who get pneumonia from HMPV also get a bacterial infection at the same time (secondary infection). If your provider prescribes antibiotics, it would be to treat any secondary infections.


Can you prevent a human metapneumovirus infection?

You can reduce your risk of getting HMPV and other infectious diseases by:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water. If you aren’t able to use soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth — with your elbow, not your bare hand — when you sneeze or cough.
  • Avoid being around other people when you or they are sick with a cold or other contagious diseases.
  • Consider wearing a mask if you’re sick and can’t avoid being around others.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share food or eating utensils (forks, spoons, cups) with others.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does human metapneumovirus last?

Mild cases of human metapneumovirus usually last a few days to a week. If you’re very sick, it’ll probably take longer to feel better. You might also have lingering symptoms, like a cough, that take longer to go away.

How do I take care of myself?

You can manage mild, cold-like symptoms of HMPV at home by:

  • Drinking lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications like pain relievers, decongestants and cough suppressants to help your symptoms. Don’t give medications to kids without asking their pediatrician first — some medications that are OK for adults aren’t safe for kids.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • You or your child has symptoms of a respiratory infection and an underlying condition that puts you or them at an elevated risk for severe illness.
  • Your symptoms or your child’s symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days or if you or your child has a fever lasting longer than three days.

When should I go to the ER?

Go to the ER or seek immediate medical attention if you or your child has symptoms of severe illness, including:

  • High fever (over 103 degrees Fahrenheit /40 degrees Celsius).
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Bluish skin, lips or nails (cyanosis).
  • Worsening of other health conditions.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

It might be helpful to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What over-the-counter medications can I use?
  • How do I treat my symptoms at home?
  • What severe symptoms should I look out for?
  • When should I go to the ER?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How long might it take to feel better?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a common virus that usually causes symptoms similar to a cold. If you’re older than 5, you’ve probably already had it at least once. Most of the time, you’ll get better at home in a few days. But sometimes HMPV can cause serious complications. Young children, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for severe illness. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about HMPV. Seek medical care right away if you or your child is having trouble breathing or if you have other signs of serious illness.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/20/2023.

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