Human Metapneumovirus

Overview

What is human metapneumovirus?

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a disease that spreads from person to person through close contact. hMPV usually causes symptoms similar to the common cold, but symptoms can be more serious for some groups of people. Dutch scientists identified hMPV in 2001.

Most people will have an hMPV infection before the age of five. This virus reoccurs throughout someone’s life. hMPV infections tend to happen in the winter and early spring, along with the flu season.

Who might get human metapneumovirus?

Anyone can get hMPV, but people most at risk of complications include:

  • Children under 5.
  • People who are immunocompromised, such as those who take cancer medications or have had organ transplants.
  • Newborns.
  • People over 65.
  • People with asthma who use steroids.
  • People with COPD.

How common is human metapneumovirus?

Researchers estimate that about 10% to 12% of respiratory illnesses in children are related to hMPV. Most cases are mild, but about 5% to 16% of children will develop a lower respiratory tract infection, such as pneumonia.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes hMPV?

A virus causes hMPV. It spreads from an infected person when they:

  • Cough.
  • Shake hands.
  • Sneeze.
  • Touch objects or surfaces.
  • Touch other people.

What are the symptoms of human metapneumovirus?

Human metapneumovirus produces symptoms similar to the common cold. If you have human metapneumovirus, you may experience the following symptoms:

Severe cases of hMPV may lead to more serious infections such as:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is human metapneumovirus diagnosed?

To help diagnose hMPV, your healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and family health history. Healthcare providers usually don’t do tests unless you or your child has serious symptoms that may require hospitalization.

Your healthcare provider may take samples from your nose or throat. They use these samples to test for the virus using a rapid antigen test or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

For very severe cases, your healthcare provider may do a bronchoscopy. They insert a thin tube with a small camera down your windpipe (throat) and into your lung to take a fluid sample.

Management and Treatment

How is human metapneumovirus (hMPV) treated?

Healthcare providers don’t usually treat hMPV. They may prescribe a temporary inhaler if you have a cough or wheezing.

If you or your child have trouble breathing and need to be hospitalized, your healthcare provider may admit you to the hospital. There, they can treat you with oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids.

How can I manage symptoms of hMPV?

To help relieve hMPV symptoms, you can:

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of human metapneumovirus?

You can reduce the risk of developing hMPV by:

  • Having annual health exams and staying up to date on vaccinations.
  • Staying away from people who are sick.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds prior to touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a human metapneumovirus?

Most cases of hMPV go away on their own in two to five days.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

If you or your child have hMPV symptoms, you should:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Disinfect common surfaces you touch.
  • Not hug or kiss others.
  • Not share your cups or glasses.
  • Stay at home until you feel better.
  • Wash your hands frequently.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

See your healthcare provider if you (or your child) experience:

  • High fever.
  • Severe shortness of breath, wheezing or cough.
  • Symptoms that last for more than 14 days.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a virus with similar symptoms to the common cold. Most people can treat hMPV at home with plenty of fluids and pain relief. Symptoms usually go away in two to five days. Some people, especially those under age 5 and over age 65, can have more serious complications from hMPV. See your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/06/2022.

References

  • American College of Chest Physicians. The CHEST Foundation. Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV). (https://foundation.chestnet.org/lung-health-a-z/human-metapneumovirus-hmpv/) Accessed 2/6/2022.
  • American Lung Association. Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) Treatment and Recovery. (https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/human-metapneumovirus-hmpv/treatment-recovery) Accessed 2/6/2022.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Human Metapneumovirus (HMPV) Clinical Features. (https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/hmpv/clinical.html) Accessed 2/6/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection and Human Metapneumovirus Infection. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/viral-infections-in-infants-and-children/respiratory-syncytial-virus-rsv-infection-and-human-metapneumovirus-infection) Accessed 2/6/2022.
  • Shafagati N, Williams J. Human metapneumovirus - what we know now. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5795268/) F1000Res. 2018;7:135. Published 2018 Feb 1. Accessed 2/6/2022.

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