Understanding Human Metapneumovirus

What is Human Metapneumovirus?

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is member of a family of viruses and was first recognized in 2001 in the Netherlands, but it most likely has been causing respiratory illnesses for at least 50 years worldwide. Human metapneumovirus can cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections in people of all ages.  Upper respiratory tract infections include colds, while lower respiratory tract infections include pneumonia or bronchitis. Respiratory illnesses from hMPV most often occur in young children or older adults.

The virus is most likely to spread by direct or close contact with the respiratory secretions (through sneezing and coughing) of people infected with the virus or by contact with objects and surfaces that have the virus on them.

It is believed most people who develop illness will do so three to five days after being exposed to the virus.

How Serious is Human Metapneumovirus?

Most people with hMPV infection have mild symptoms including:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

Some people have more severe illness, with wheezing, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, cough, pneumonia, and a flare-up of asthma. HMPV can cause more serious illness in children younger than 1 year of age, the elderly and people who have weak immune systems.

HMPV is most common in late winter and early spring in the United States.

Most children become infected with hMPV by age 5. Adults can become reinfected with the virus. Adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the elderly and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at high risk of hMPV infection. Transplant patients appear to be at significant risk for severe hMPV illness.

>> Learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hMPV.