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Human Metapneumovirus Infection

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


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. This releases droplets of the virus into the air and onto 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 virus.

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

  • A weakened 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 people may not have symptoms. Others may have cold or flu symptoms, such as:

  • A stuffy and runny nose
  • Cough, wheezing, or problems breathing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Fever
  • A sore throat


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.

Those with severe symptoms or weakened immune systems may need tests. A sample of fluids from the mouth or nose will be taken and tested to look for signs of infection.


For most people, the infection passes on its own. In others, supportive care may be needed, such as:

  • Rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • A cool-mist vaporizer—to ease coughing
  • Salt water nose drops—to loosen mucus in the nose
  • Pain relievers

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 lowered by:

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




  • Children and Colds. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-Colds.aspx.
  • 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: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/human-metapneumovirus-hmpv-infection.
  • Learn about human metapneumovirus. American Lung Association website. Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/human-metapneumovirus-hmpv/learn-about-human-metapneumovirus-hmpv.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.