Is your cough not going away? It could be human metapneumovirus (HMPV).

January 26, 2024

Primary Care Lungs and Breathing
Man with cough

Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a viral respiratory infection. It spreads through close personal contact, so you are more likely to get infected during the colder months when people are more often indoors.

“We observed cases of HMPV spike last spring. Already this winter, the numbers of positive cases are increasing,” says Dr. Jeffrey Carter, a family medicine physician at Riverside Williamsburg Family Medicine.

Researchers believe the masking, social distancing and handwashing efforts during the pandemic prevented HMPV cases. But now that life and social interaction have normalized, infections like the HMPV virus are spreading more easily. The good news is you can prevent a respiratory illness from HMPV, and most people contracting the virus will only have mild cold-like symptoms.

Anyone can get HMPV

HMPV can infect anyone, but it is most dangerous for individuals with weakened immune systems, including:

  • Children
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Cancer patients
  • Organ transplant patients

The virus spreads from an infected person to a healthy person through sneezing, coughing, shaking hands and other close contact. You can also catch it by touching contaminated surfaces like doorknobs, screens and counters.

Symptoms of HMPV resemble a common cold.


When you have HMPV, you may have a cough, fever, nasal congestion and shortness of breath. The virus can progress to a more severe infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

If your symptoms worsen or you are not getting better as the warmer months approach, you should see your doctor. 

There is no treatment for HMPV

Treatment for HMPV is similar to the common cold: relieving the symptoms. Most people will get some relief from their symptoms with the following:

  • Increased fluids
  • Rest
  • Nasal decongestants
  • Pain relievers
  • Nasal irrigation

“Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections, but rest, fluids, proper nutrition and over-the-counter medications can help you feel better,” says Dr. Carter.

For HMPV, prevention is the best medicine.

The best way to slow the spread of HMPV is to follow good hygiene practices, including hand washing, disinfecting surfaces and staying home when you’re sick. You may be contagious before you know you are sick, so it’s important to always cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze.

Prevention starts with a robust immune system. Getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercise can support a healthy immune function so your body can fight infections like HMPV.

Trust our experts for respiratory illnesses that won’t go away.

Most people with HMPV will feel better after a few days of supportive care. If symptoms don’t go away or worsen, or you develop wheezing, shortness of breath or a severe cough, our experts can help. For a medical emergency, please go to the nearest emergency room. Otherwise, make an appointment with Dr. Carter or another Riverside primary care provider.


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