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Cases of Little-Known Virus Surged During Spring — Here’s What to Know About hMPV



Did you or anyone you know get sick at some point during the spring, but tested negative for COVID — despite having very similar symptoms?

It may have been a much lesser-known virus that surged for months.

Most were unaware of the respiratory virus known as hMPV, or human metapneumovirus, which can feel like a bad case of the common cold. But at its peak in mid-March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw positive testing for hMPV at around 11% — which was about 36% higher than the pre-COVID average. 

“The virus doesn’t cause a severe infection so we don’t always test it everywhere on every patient,” said Dr. Marina Keller, an epidemiologist who treats infectious diseases at Westchester Medical Center.

While the virus, which the CDC says was discovered just over 20 years ago, generally doesn’t lead to severe illnesses, in rare cases it can lead to pneumonia. And while the peak season for it is coming to the end, it is another virus to be aware of.

According to Dr. Keller, HMPV symptoms are similar to other respiratory viruses. Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Shortness of breath

“For most of the population, it’s like other respiratory viruses, common cold. But it can be more worrisome for people who have other medical problems,” said Dr. Keller.

Those with weaker immune systems are more at risk — younger children and the elderly, especially. As the urgency regarding COVID fades and many have ditched their facemasks in most settings, it could contribute to more cases springing up.

“It is definitely possible. As we take our masks off, get a little bit more lax with our common sense precautions for viral infection, that we do see more viruses,” Dr. Keller said.

It’s cold and flu season again, which means you could be left wondering which virus is causing your symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.

Dr. Keller says stay home if you or your kids feel sick. And, at the very least, there’s always one things that helps prevent viruses from spreading.

“Hand washing never goes out of style, prevents all kinds of viruses,” she said.

There is no treatment or vaccine for hMPV, though scientists are working on the latter. Symptoms can be treated with standard over-the-counter medications. The CDC said the estimated incubation period is three to six days, and how long those infected feel symptomatic can depend on severity, though it is similar to other respiratory illnesses.

How Is hMPV Spread?

Here’s how the virus can go from one person to another, according to the CDC:

  • Particles or droplets from coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, like shaking hands
  • Touching objects or surfaces that have the viruses on them then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes

The virus generally starts spreading in winter and lasts through the spring.

Source: NBC New York

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