There’s a virus sweeping Australia right now and it’s making people seriously ill. Here’s what you need to know about HMPV.
HMPV is a virus that affects the ribonucleic acid (RNA) in our cells, and is a respiratory disease that causes people to cough and have a fever, shortness of breath and nasal congestion.
Data shows more than 1100 people in NSW alone came down with the illness last week – a 15 per cent increase on the week before.
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While the name sounds scary, infectious disease specialist Dr Nick Coatsworth says it’s a virus most of us have had before.
“It’s one of the common cold viruses that circulates every single year and NSW seems to be going through a little uptick at the moment,” he told 2GB radio station.
So why the sudden surge, and why are some people ending up in hospital?
Dr Coatsworth said it’s all got to do with the transition of seasons. “When you have a change of season, we see some of these non-Covid respiratory viruses,” he explained, and added that HMPV can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia, and for our immunocompromised and vulnerable groups, like the elderly and children under five, it can be deadly.
While Dr Coatsworth said the spike in numbers doesn’t alarm him, Professor William Rawlinson from the University of NSW was concerned that some of us who could typically handle respiratory illnesses are struggling with HMPV.
“We’re not only seeing increased numbers, but we’re also seeing people who we typically would think have a mild illness tending to have a more severe illness,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Severe reactions to HMPV can include pneumonia, bronchitis and aggravated asthma.
Leigh Davison from Baltimore in the US told CNN she picked up the virus from a family gathering – two weeks later she became violently ill.
“I couldn’t get out more than a couple of words. I would go into violent, violent coughing to the point where I was literally almost throwing up,” the 59-year-old said, and explaining that after a series of Covid tests came back negative, she went to her doctor who admitted her to hospital.
Davison had developed bronchitis, and called HMPV “the worst I’ve ever experienced” in comparison to other respiratory infections.
It took a month for her to fully recover.
Symptoms of Human Metapneumovirus
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
Complications from Human Metapneumovirus
- Aggravated asthma
- Difficulty breathing
- Long-term pulmonary inflammation