Science and Tech


Were you recently sick? This virus may be to blame

Human metapneumovirus, discovered in 2001, typically peaks in the winter and spring months.
A woman sick in bed.
Posted at 11:33 AM, May 30, 2023

COVID-19 is a virus people have become very familiar with over the last three years. However, there's a lesser-known virus that has also been making people sick. 

Cases of human metapneumovirus, also known as HMPV, jumped significantly this spring. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 20% of antigen tests came back positive for the virus. It's unclear what was behind the uptick in cases, but the virus is generally known to peak in the winter and spring months. It has since taken a sharp drop. In the second week of May, only 2% of antigen tests came back positive for HMPV. 

What is HMPV?

Unlike COVID-19, HMPV is not a new virus. It was discovered in 2001 by Dutch scientists. Symptoms of the virus are typically similar to those of other respiratory viruses, including cough, fever, nasal congestion and shortness of breath, the CDC states. Health officials warn that the virus can progress to bronchitis or pneumonia. 

HMPV treatment

There is currently no antiviral therapy approved to treat HMPV. There's also no vaccine to prevent people from getting the virus in the first place. 

The CDC advises people who are sick with HMPV to wash their hands frequently, cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid personal contact with others.

Health officials say the virus will typically run its course in about a week, similar to other respiratory viruses.