Human Metapneumovirus, or hMPV, was only recently discovered: in 2001, in the Netherlands. It is estimated, however, that the disease had been around for decades before that. hMPV is a disease affecting the respiratory system.
A virus, hMPV is able to be spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing, and touching infected objects or surfaces. It takes approximately 3-5 days to develop symptoms, once exposed, and the symptoms are usually mild.
For many, hMPV manifests itself as a cold virus, with simple symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. However, this is only the case when the infection remains in the upper respiratory system.
When the virus attacks the lower respiratory system, it can be a much more serious illness. It can trigger asthma attacks in asthmatic patients, and cause difficulty breathing in non-asthma patients. Common in late winter and early spring, it is often just passed off as yet another cold or flu.
For those with compromised immune systems, transplants, those with lung conditions like COPD, the elderly, or those who are very young, hMPV poses a greater threat than to the healthy. In fact, pneumonia can develop from hMPV. hMPV is, like most viruses, not a major threat to the majority of those who become infected, but can even cause death in those who are vulnerable.