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Dr John Williams, a paediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, warned of the “most important virus you’ve never heard of”.
HMPV is “most likely to put people in the hospital and cause severe disease” – on par with Covid and flu.
The contagious viral infection is the “most likely to sweep through nursing homes and make older people really sick and even kill them”.
Dr William’s warning is timely indeed as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that HMPV is “most active during late winter and spring”.
Symptoms of HMPV can include cough, fever, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath.
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The CDC adds: “Clinical symptoms of HMPV infection may progress to bronchitis or pneumonia.”
Pneumonia (and influenza) were the leading cause of excess death in both England and Wales in January 2023, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) states.
The CDC says: “Currently, there is no specific antiviral therapy to treat HMPV and no vaccine to prevent HMPV.”
The virus spreads from an infected person when they cough or sneeze, or when shaking hands, for example.
You can also catch the virus by touching an infected surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
How to protect yourself against HMPV
Good hygiene etiquette can help to lower your risk of catching HMPV.
This includes washing your hands often with soap and water, refraining from touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding contact with sick people.
Those who are presenting with cold-like symptoms can help to prevent the spread of the virus by covering their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
Sick people should also “avoid sharing their cups and eating utensils with others”, the CDC notes.
Those people who are feeling unwell should also refrain from kissing a sick person.
The CDC says: “In addition, cleaning possible contaminated surfaces (such as doorknobs and shared toys) may potentially help stop the spread of HMPV.”
Since HMPV is recognised as a respiratory virus, healthcare professionals may not routinely consider or test for HMPV.