The Human Metapneumovirus or hMPV/HMPV is a fairly scary virus that can cause respiratory infections. Is it just me or did you also notice how the numbers of viral diseases have gone up?
Well, there are a number of factors working against this- one of them is deforestation. This is another article on its own, so keep an eye out if this intrigues you!
Human metapneumovirus is a microorganism that is capable of causing respiratory diseases- specifically both upper and lower. The virus does not have a restriction on age as a risk factor and can cause the disease in both young children and older adults.
This article will explore the disease and discuss the different aspects of this pathogen such as its discovery and the manner in which it spreads.
What Is Human Metapneumovirus?
Human metapneumovirus belongs to the Pneumoviridae family with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The virus is known to cause severe respiratory disease in young children, older adults, and people with a weak immune system.
However, it can also lead to lower respiratory infectionus such as asthma flares-up or pneumonia. The condition is also known to worsen conditions such as COPD.
Discovery Of The Virus
It is astonishing to know that this virus is quite young when you compare it to the other viruses that can cause an infection. First found in the Netherlands, Bernadette G. van den Hoogen and her colleagues were able to discover this pathogen in 2001.
They were able to isolate the pathogen in respiratory patients. Their study which can be found in the journal Nature, mentions that the virus was taken from 28 young children. They were already experiencing symptoms that were similar to human RSV, which is how the researchers found the new virus.
It is worth noting that the virus was ubiquitous for 50 years before its discovery in 2001, meaning it was already causing infections in humans.
Common Target Groups
Commonly, young children are the target group of this virus, however, it also has an inclination to elderly people and those who have a weak immunity. Specifically, the virus is known to infect children before they turn 5, which is quite severe for most of them.
However, it is a relief that the next attack of the virus is mild, with symptoms not bothering the person as much as the first infection.
- The transmission of this virus is mostly through direct contact which involves human to human contact.
- This may also include coming in contact with the secretions of someone who has the infection.
- Coming in contact with the secretions such as infectious droplets which can spread during coughing or sneezing or through touching common surfaces that may have the virus on them.
Usually the exposure to the virus does not cause symptoms that are too severe, however, the
The following symptoms are common to notice in a human metapneumovirus infection:
- Runny or stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
The symptoms of this infection are very similar to the ones observed in other respiratory infections. This introduces the confusion in diagnosis of the virus. It is also worth noting that the symptoms can become severe for people- this depends on several factors.
These include age, health of the immune system and whether the correct cause of the illness has been diagnosed.
Usually people with these symptoms do not need consultation, as the infection subsides on its own. However, with the worsening of symptoms, a person may develop a severe cough, shortness of breath and wheezing which mandates a professional consultation.
Due to the similarity in symptoms with other viral respiratory infections, the diagnosis of this virus plays an important role. It is important to determine what type of microorganism is causing the infection as it determines the treatment process that will be most suitable.
The initial diagnosis of the infection is through
- bronchoscopy and
- chest X-rays which can help in the visualization of the changes in airways.
Following ways help doctors in diagnosing the virus:
- PCR test or polymerase chain reaction that allows direct detection of viral genome
- Direct detection of the viral antigen from the respiratory secretions.
Due to the various defense mechanisms of the virus, there aren’t any antivirals that can help in treatment. The symptoms are manageable at home without the need of pharmacological intervention. However, when the symptoms become severe, doctor’s consultation suggests pharmacological interventions such as:
- IV fluids help in counteracting dehydration due to the loss
- Oxygen therapy is helpful in taking care of breathlessness and shortness of breath, especially in children and older adults who may be experiencing the severe symptoms.
- Corticosteroids help in easing symptoms that may result due to inflammation such as asthma flare-up.
Similar to all other infections that are easily spread through direct contact, the following preventative measures help a lot:
- Washing hands with soap and water, if not possible, keeping a sanitizer for hand hygiene
- Covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, encouraging your child to do the same if they are experiencing the infection
- Avoiding close contact with infected individuals
- Covering your face when being in a public setting is unavoidable
- Avoid sharing anything that will be in use by the person who is infected
It is easy to curb the spread of the virus through following these simple steps which help in controlling the infection. Moreover, following these steps protect individuals from exacerbation of the condition.
In conclusion, human metapneumovirus, the ubiquitous causative agent of upper and lower respiratory tract infections has an interesting effect on humans. Were you able to make note of the same while reading the article?
If not, here is a hint- it’s the way it can cause other infections in the person. The treatment options are limited, however, it works fine when the diagnosis is complete. This helps the physician not delay proper treatment which is known to cause a lot of complications.