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What is human metapneumovirus that has peaked in the United States

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The human metapneumovirus (HMP extension), discovered in the Netherlands in 2001, is an RNA virus belonging to the family of paramyxoviruses, viruses known to cause a variety of common infections. Research at the time found that the new pathogen, which caused serious unexplained respiratory infections in children, was closely related to the avian metapneumovirus, which infects birds. The new virus was therefore named human metapneumovirus. Scientists think so passed from birds to humans and which circulated for at least half a century before being discovered.

Other known paramyxoviruses are parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), measles and mumps
. In most people, this virus only causes a simple cold. HMPV is the second most common cause of respiratory infections in children after RSV.

Why is the virus increasing?

As with other respiratory illnesses, cases of human metapneumovirus are on the rise, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recorded unusual spikes in the United States. By mid-March in the US, nearly 11% of samples tested were positive for HMPV, a number more than 36% higher than the average seasonal peak of the pre-Covid pandemic period. Experts speculate that the emergence of a number of viruses, including RSV, may be a result of this lockdown and the overuse of masks preventing the immune system from contacting the usual viruses and better controlling future exposures. After years of social distancing children have less immunity able to fend off multiple viruses at once. Children usually become infected with the metapneumovirus at the age of 5.

What Are the Symptoms of HPMV?

The virus, which usually appears in winter and spring, usually affects the upper respiratory tract, causing nasal congestion, coughing and shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty breathing, as well as fever. The infection usually lasts three to seven days.

When does it become dangerous?

Human metapneumovirus is usually mild, but can have more serious consequences for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. In some cases, it can progress to the lower respiratory tract, leading to more serious illness such as bronchiolitis
, which causes swelling, irritation, and a buildup of mucus in the lungs, or pneumonia. Depending on the severity, the virus typically lasts as long as other viruses, anywhere from three to seven days.

How is it transferred?

Human metapneumovirus is spread in a similar way to other viruses: by airborne particles produced by coughing or sneezing, by physical contact with a person who has the virus, or by touching contaminated objects and then entering the eyes, mouth or nose touch. The virus can spread even when people are asymptomatic, just like Sars-CoV-2. According to a study published in Jama, asymptomatic human metapneumovirus infections account for at least 38% of infections.

How widespread is it?

A 2020 study in the Lancet Global Health estimated that in 2018 there were more than 14 million HMPV infections among children under age 5, more than 600,000 hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 deaths. infection generates weak or incomplete immune protection and people are re-infected for life.

Is there a vaccine?

There is no vaccine for human metapneumovirus and treatment is limited to supportive care to facilitate breathing. In the rare most severe cases, patients are admitted to intensive care, even though most people recover on their own.

Source: Corriere

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