Woman sneezes, doctor frowns

Doctor issues warning over ‘killer’ virus with Covid-like symptoms as cases rise

'It's the most important virus you've never heard of'

A doctor has issued a warning over a ‘killer’ virus with Covid-like symptoms in the latest health news. You may have never heard of it, but cases are on the rise.

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a respiratory virus with similar symptoms as Covid – a cough, runny nose and/or nasal congestion. But cases are on the rise among pensioners in hospitals and children with respiratory viruses.

A woman sneezes into a tissue
The symptoms of HMPV are flu-like (Credit: Pexels)

Covid news: What is Human metapneumovirus (HMPV)?

Studies have shown that HMPV was just as common as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu in pensioners in hospitals over the past four years. It was the second most common cause of respiratory infections in kids behind RSV in the past 25 years.

A paediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr John Williams, shared his fears that not enough people are aware of the virus. He explained: “It’s the most important virus you’ve never heard of.”

He added: “Those are the three major viruses. Those are the big three in kids and adults, the most likely to put people in the hospital and cause severe disease, most likely to sweep through nursing homes and make older people really sick and even kill them.” Most people will not know when they have HMPV as testing outside of hospitals is rare.

Sick child uses a tissue
HMPV is second most common cause of respiratory infections in kids behind RSV in the last 25 years (Credit: Pexels)

Who is most at risk?

While symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, cough and wheezing it can develop into more serious symptoms. It can develop into wheezing, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, cough, and pneumonia. In adults, aggravation of asthma, also has been reported.

While most people recover within around seven to 10 days, people with weakened immune systems, asthma and other respiratory condition may be at a greater risk to develop serious illnesses including bronchitis or pneumonia.

Cases spiked in the US this spring, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To avoid cases continuing to rise in the UK, the NHS reminds people with respiratory illness symptoms to cover their nose and mouth if they sneeze or cough, put used tissues in a bin, wash their hands or use alcohol gel regularly and keep surfaces clean.

Read more: Millions of Brits won’t be eligible for free flu jab this winter amid major change to rollout

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