Doctors Warn Of A Little-Known Respiratory Virus To Watch Out For

Having recently transitioned out of the COVID-19 public health emergency status, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that the U.S. has been facing rising rates of an alternate virus. Known as human metapneumovirus (HMPV), data from the agency shows that a surge of cases was detected through antigen tests during the first half of March 2023. While case numbers have since dropped as we enter the summer months, doctors emphasize that individuals — as well as the medical community — should keep an eye out for potential indicators of viral infection.

Impacting children, older adults, and those with compromised immunity, in particular, HMPV infection can lead to the development of upper and lower respiratory diseases, including pneumonia and bronchitis. While some cases may be more serious or long-lasting than others, infection symptoms present much like those of other respiratory viruses. These include fever, cough, sinus congestion, and shortness of breath.

Preventative strategies to protect against infection

Because the virus presents similarly to other forms of respiratory illness, HMPV can be difficult to identify on one's own. Blood testing in healthcare settings is one of the only ways to know for sure, yet testing is often underutilized by doctors due to it being a lesser-known virus, reports CNN.

Because there is no antiviral treatment or vaccine specific to HMPV, exercising prevention is key to avoiding infection, per the CDC. Individuals should refrain from touching their eyes, mouth, and nose if their hands have not been washed with soap and water for 20 seconds or more. Because the virus can be spread through close personal contact, it's best to maintain distance from those who may be ill. This includes sharing potentially contaminated items, such as silverware. Those who may be infected should take care to shield their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Such precautions are especially important during the spring and winter seasons when the virus tends to be most active.