What Is Human Metapneumovirus?

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"Human metapneumovirus" (hMPV) sounds like a mysterious new virus, but you’re probably more familiar with it than you realize. It’s one of the hundreds of viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory infections associated with the common cold.

Like other respiratory infections, it typically causes mild upper respiratory symptoms like cough, congestion, runny nose, and fever. But it may progress to a lower respiratory infection such as bronchitis (affecting the airways) or pneumonia (affecting the lungs).

If you’re in good health and are at low risk, you’re unlikely to develop complications from hMPV.

This article provides an overview of human metapneumovirus and touches on symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Parent helps child blow nose into tissue

MoMo Productions / Getty Images

Human Metapneumovirus Symptoms

Common symptoms you can expect with a human metapneumovirus infection include:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Mild fever

Most people only develop mild symptoms, and some people may not develop symptoms at all. If you do develop symptoms, they’ll likely fade in a few days or so. 

More serious symptoms can develop, but this is uncommon. For example, people with preexisting lung conditions may have shortness of breath with hMPV.

Additional symptoms that are unlikely but possible include:

  • Wheezing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting

Causes

You can get hMOV by coming into close contact with someone who has it and breathing in respiratory droplets when they sneeze or cough. Touching contaminated surfaces and immediately touching your mouth or eyes also is a pathway for the virus. 

Sharing cups and other utensils with someone sick with hMPV is another way to catch this infection.

Diagnosis

Unless you’re very sick and hospitalized with hMPV, there’s a high probability that you won’t even know that it’s the specific virus causing your symptoms because most people won’t even visit a healthcare provider when they have mild cold-like symptoms. 

If you see a healthcare provider, they’ll diagnose you by performing a physical exam, taking your medical history, and asking about your symptoms.

Treatment

There’s no treatment for an upper respiratory infection caused by hMPV. 

To cope with symptoms, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) products like cough syrups, decongestants, and pain relievers/fever reducers such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). These OTC drugs can’t treat the viral illness directly.

Do not give children any OTC cough or cold medications without consulting a healthcare provider first. Children should not be given aspirin or products containing aspirin.

When you have an upper respiratory infection, it’s a good idea to take it easy and avoid strenuous activity. You might also consider calling in sick to work or school or avoiding contact with others to prevent the spread of the illness.

You can also try the following to help lessen symptoms:

  • Put a humidifier near your bed to help ease your sore throat and cough.
  • Sleep more if you need to.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water. 
  • Try using a saline nasal spray to help with your blocked nose and sinuses.

Prognosis 

Human metapneumovirus produces a mild illness in most people, and symptoms clear up rather quickly, in two to five days.

Some people are at higher risk of complications, such as:

  • Young infants and children
  • Older adults
  • People with cancer
  • People with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • People receiving certain medical treatments, like chemotherapy, which impact their immune system
  • People with chronic lung conditions like asthma
  • People who are pregnant

Complications can include bronchiolitis (inflammation of the smallest airways, most often seen in infants and toddlers), bronchitis (chest cold, inflammation of the larger airways), or pneumonia (infection of the lungs).

Coping

A bit of rest, fluids, and some OTC products to help ease symptoms will get you on your way to feeling better. If your symptoms don’t improve within a week or if they seem to get worse, it may be time to talk with a healthcare provider. 

Summary 

Human metapneumovirus is a virus that causes upper and lower respiratory infections (the common cold). If you catch this virus, you might experience cold-like symptoms, including sniffles, sore throat, and a cough. While there’s no cure for human metapneumovirus, most cases clear up within a few days.

However, sometimes people can develop complications, like pneumonia. This is more likely in certain populations, such as infants, older people, and people who have weakened immune systems. 

A Word From Verywell 


Most people will have a mild illness if they contract human metapneumovirus. Still, it’s important for people with no risk factors and healthy immune systems to do their part in protecting those more vulnerable.

To prevent the spread of hMPV, be sure to maintain proper hygiene and steer clear of others when you have symptoms. 

In the age of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to isolate when possible if experiencing respiratory infection symptoms. If you're not sure whether you have the common cold or COVID-19, consider taking a rapid COVID-19 test.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Chest Physicians CHEST Foundation. Human metapneumovirus (hMPV).

  2. Illinois Department of Public Health. Human metapneumovirus.

  3. American Lung Association. What are the symptoms of hMPV?

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Common over-the-counter medications.

  5. CHEST Foundation. Treating hMPV.

  6. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Human metapneumovirus (hMPV).

  7. American Lung Association. Learn about human metapneumovirus (hMPV).

By Steph Coelho
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.