Health: what is the human metapneumovirus that worries American scientists and doctors?

If the winter of 2022-2023 was marked by the joint flu and Covid epidemics, another virus would also have developed, while passing under the radar of health professionals. American doctors believe that this human metapneumovirus (or HMPV) could grow in the next few years. Indeed, cases of human metapneumovirus increased in the spring in the United States. According to health authorities, 11% of patients tested in hospitals there were positive. According to their estimates, this corresponds to a rise of 36% compared to the seasonal peak of metapneumovirus before the pandemic, which was then 7%.

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In addition, some of the patients do not know that they are carrying the virus, since patients are rarely tested outside hospitals. In short: according to the health authorities, the number of patients would be much higher. And unlike Covid-19 and the flu, there is not yet a vaccine or antiviral drugs to treat human metapneumovirus.

Symptoms close to Covid or the flu

The symptoms of the human metapneumovirus are quite similar to the coronavirus or the flu: lower tract lung infection, cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. It mainly affects infants, young children, and the elderly or vulnerable. In case of severe infection, it can also cause respiratory distress, even cases of fatal pneumonia.

In an article by CNN, Diane Davison, 59, a lawyer in Baltimore, said she contracted the virus after a family reunion in early April. She insists in particular on the very violent cough which prevented her from speaking. As an immunosuppressed, she thought she had Covid, but all her tests came back negative. It was after a battery of more extensive tests that doctors diagnosed him with metapneumovirus.

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THE human metapneumovirus was discovered in the Netherlands in 2001 on children with unexplained respiratory infections. Closer examination of the virus’ genes revealed a close relative: avian metapneumovirus, which infects birds. Scientists think it probably jumped from birds to humans, and evolved from that mutation. Researchers have also analyzed blood samples stored since 1958, and they have shown that this virus has been circulating for at least half a century.

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