22 July 2019
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.
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.
The incubation period is usually 3 - 6 days.
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.
Vaccine is not available at the moment. Members of public are advised to observe the following preventive measures:
- Maintain good personal hygiene
- Perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs or when hands are contaminated by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing. Wash hands with liquid soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse with water and dry with a disposable paper towel or hand dryer. If hand washing facilities are not available, or when hands are not visibly soiled, hand hygiene with 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub is an effective alternative.
- Cover nose and mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, then wash hands thoroughly.
- Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others.
- When having respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly.
- Exclude infected persons from providing care to children, elderly and immunocompromised people.
- Maintain good environmental hygiene
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as furniture, toys and commonly shared items with 1:99 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of 5.25% bleach with 99 parts of water), leave for 15 - 30 minutes, and then rinse with water and keep dry. For metallic surface, disinfect with 70% alcohol.
- Use absorbent disposable towels to wipe away obvious contaminants such as respiratory secretions, and then disinfect the surface and neighbouring areas with 1:49 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of 5.25% bleach with 49 parts of water), leave for 15 - 30 minutes and then rinse with water and keep dry. For metallic surface, disinfect with 70% alcohol.
- Maintain good indoor ventilation. Avoid going to crowded or poorly ventilated public places.