Human Metapneumovirus Infection



Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) infection is a common respiratory illness. It most often leads to a cold. Rarely, it can lead to more severe infections like pneumonia or bronchiolitis.


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An hMPV infection is caused by the hMPV virus. The virus is spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. Droplets of the virus may spray onto the hands and nearby surfaces. Others get infected by:

  • Inhaling virus droplets
  • Getting the virus on their hands and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth

Risk Factors

The hMPV infection is a common cause of colds in children. However, it can occur at any age. The biggest risk for getting infected is close contact with someone who has the vrus.

Severe hMPV infections are more common in people over 65 years old and those with:

  • A weak immune system
  • Asthma
  • Long term lung disease due to:
    • Premature birth
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD
  • A lung transplant
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cancer


Symptoms of hMPV infection range from mild to severe. Some may have no symptoms. Others may have cold or flu symptoms, such as:

  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Cough, wheezing, or problems breathing
  • Fever
  • Hoarse voice
  • Sore throat


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis may be based on the exam and symptoms.

Those with severe symptoms or weak immune systems may need tests. A sample of fluids from the mouth or nose will be taken and tested.


Treatment depends on the severity of the hMPV infection. For most people, the infection passes on its own.

Home care may include:

  • Rest
  • Fluids by mouth
  • A cool-mist vaporizer—to ease coughing
  • Salt water nose drops—to loosen mucus in the nose
  • Non-aspirin fever medicine, such as acetaminophen

More severe infections may need medical care. Support may include:

  • Medicines to open airways
  • Oxygen
  • Antiviral medicines, such as ribavirin


The risk of a respiratory infection may be reduced by:

  • Washing hands often
  • Staying away from people with colds
  • Not touching the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Not sharing items with people who have colds
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization


Public Health Agency of Canada


Children and Colds. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed: April 5, 2021.
DeGeorge KC, Ring DJ, et al. Treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician. 2019;100(5):281-289.
Human metapneumovirus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2021
Learn about human metapneumovirus. American Lung Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed April 5, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/5/2021

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