Health

The little known but deadly virus with no vaccine – 4 key symptoms

A doctor is urging people to be wary of a little known virus that can cause a serious respiratory illness and even fatalities. Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) can be deadly in extreme cases but unlike other similar illnesses, there is no vaccine for it.

Speaking to the Daily Star, Doctor Samer Sader – from Carle Health in the US – warned that children and older people can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of hMPV.

It can kill around one in 10 young children infected, he said. But unlike flu and Covid-19 there are no readily available vaccines or treatments.

Dr Sader explained: “The people we do worry about are the people who are getting treatments for cancer, people who are getting treatments for auto-immune disorders, and people who have chronic lung diseases such as bad emphysema, or COPD.”

He added: “It’s just a matter of watching for complications. We’ll ask patients, ‘Does your lung disease get worse? Do you need more medicine? Do you get secondary pneumonia?

“Do you get in trouble because you’re not eating and drinking enough? That’s what we look for.”

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hMPV can cause upper and lower respiratory disease in people of all ages.

However, this is more common among young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, it says.

Symptoms of Human Metapneumovirus

The four most common symptoms of hMPV are:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Shortness of breath.

For this reason it could easily be mistaken for another, less serious illness.

If the infection progresses it can result in bronchitis or pneumonia, which could result in chest congestion, wheezing while breathing and a cough that produces yellow or green mucus.

HMPV circulation tends to occur between winter and spring.

The CDC warns that it can be spread via:

  • Secretions from coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching objects or surfaces that have the viruses on them then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • To know for sure whether you are infected a nose and throat swab test is needed.

Currently, there is no specific antiviral therapy to treat hMPV meaning associated medical care is supportive.

But people who have hMPV can help prevent the spread by washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Patients who have cold-like symptoms should cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and wash their hands frequently and correctly (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). They should also avoid sharing their cups and eating utensils with others, refrain from kissing others and stay at home when they are sick.

If you experience severe symptoms you should seek immediate medical help.


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