Metapneumovirus: This Covid-like virus is an 'underestimated threat' as infections surge

According to researchers, a virus, which is relatively unknown to the general public, is more harmful than it seems. In some cases, it can cause respiratory distress in adults.

This metapneumovirus could be the next Covid-19 pandemic
© Thana Prasongsin / Getty Images
This metapneumovirus could be the next Covid-19 pandemic

While the winter of 2022/2023 was particularly characterized by the seasonal epidemic of the flu and Covid-19, another respiratory virus is also proliferating under our doctors' radars. It is an underestimated threat that could well become more widespread over the next few years, and perhaps become the new Covid-19 epidemic.

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The metapneumovirus is proven to be more harmful to infants and children than to adults, but it can also cause respiratory infections in adults. It is not to be taken likely, CNN even describes it as an 'underestimated threat', so here is everything you should know about the metapneumovirus.

Metapneumovirus cases are on the rise

In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a large portion of the patients who consulted their doctors with symptoms of respiratory illness, believing they were suffering from Covid-19, were actually diagnosed with metapneumovirus.

The CDC estimates that during the metapneumovirus epidemic peak, in mid-March 2023, around 11% of patients tested in hospitals were positive. According to their estimates, this represents a 36% increase on the pre-pandemic seasonal peak for metapneumovirus. The pre-pandemic seasonal peak was 7%.

Doctors believe, however, that a large portion of people affected by this condition have not been tested, and that the percentage could be even higher. Indeed, most people are not tested for metapneumovirus if they consult a doctor outside hospitals or emergency departments. So what are the warning signs?

According to the MSD Merck Diagnostic and Therapeutic Manual:

Respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus infections cause seasonal lower respiratory tract disease, particularly in infants and young children. Disease may be asymptomatic, mild, or severe, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Read more:RSV: Urgent warning issued to parents after a rise in this common illness

Here are the symptoms you should look out for

The CDC gives examples of the most common symptoms of metapneumovirus, in the hope that it will lead people to see their doctor and get diagnosed much faster, which can save lives:

Symptoms commonly associated with HMPV include cough, fever, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, the virus is the second most common cause of respiratory infection in children:

hMPV was detected in 18 (16.2%) children, indicating that this virus was the second-most-frequent cause of viral respiratory infections in children less than 1 year old.

CNN spoke to Diane Davison, an American lawyer who contracted the metapneumovirus in April this year. She explains her symptoms, emphasizing the particularly strong cough she suffered from.

Read more:'Flurona': Most common symptoms of this double infection

The most common symptom is violent coughing

Diane Davison, a 59-year-old entertainment lawyer from America, said the cough was the hardest part while she was sick. She initially thought she had coronavirus, but after 6 negative tests, she realized that the problem was not related to Covid-19. After thinking she suffered from pneumonia, her doctor ran the tests and diagnosed her with the pneumovirus:

I couldn’t get out more than a couple of words. I would go into violent, violent coughing to the point where I was literally almost throwing up.

After several tests and analyses on the virus' roots, which serve as the reference for the work of medical researchers, scientists discovered that the virus responsible for the disease came from avian metapneumovirus. The pathogenic germ would thus have passed from birds to man and evolved from this mutation.

Read more:COVID pneumonia: Most common symptoms to watch out for

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

CNN: Doctors say this is the most important virus you’ve never heard of

CDC: Human Metapneumovirus (HMPV)

MSD Manual: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Human Metapneumovirus Infections

National Library of Medicine: Role of Metapneumovirus in Viral Respiratory Infections in Young Children

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