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29 February 2016
Human Metapneumovirus Infection  

Causative agent

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a single stranded, RNA virus and can cause acute respiratory tract infections in all ages. The virus has been reported worldwide since it was first reported in 2001. HMPV infection most commonly occurs in late winter and early spring.

Symptoms

Children are primarily affected. Adults, especially elderly and the immunocompromised, are also susceptible. HMPV causes symptoms of various severity in children such as fever, cough, nasal congestion, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath. Some children may also present with otitis media, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash, and febrile convulsion. In adult, HMPV usually causes mild disease characterised by cough, hoarseness, runny nose and sputum production. HMPV infection may progress to bronchiolitis or pneumonia and are similar to other viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory infections.

Mode of transmission

Transmission is likely to occur by direct or indirect contact.

HMPV is most likely spread from an infected person to others through:

  • secretions from coughing and sneezing,
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, and
  • touching the mouth, nose or eyes after touching objects or surfaces that have been contaminated by the viruses.

Incubation period

The incubation period is usually 3 - 6 days.

Management

Currently, there is no specific treatment for HMPV infection. Patients should maintain good hydration. Oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation may be needed in severe cases.

Prevention

Vaccine is not available at the moment. As a general measure to prevent respiratory diseases, the members of public are advised to:

  • Build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate rest, reducing stress and avoid smoking.
  • Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene.
  • Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly.
  • Wash hands after sneezing, coughing, toileting and before eating.
  • Avoid sharing their cups and eating utensils with others.
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation and avoid crowded places where the ventilation is not good.
  • Infected persons should avoid contact with children or those with low body resistance.
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