Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

New Virus Commonly Strikes Children

Human Metapneumovirus May Be Major Cause of Respiratory Illnesses
WebMD Health News

Jan. 28, 2004 -- For many kids with respiratory infections, doctors are unable to pinpoint a specific cause. But a new study shows that a recently discovered virus may be responsible for up to one in five of these respiratory illnesses.

Researchers suggest that the virus, called the human metapneumovirus, appears to be one of the leading causes of respiratory infection in the first years of life and causes symptoms similar to those associated with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), such as difficulty breathing and wheezing.

Researchers say RSV and influenza are thought to be the most common causes of respiratory infections among infants and children, but there are a substantial number of cases in which no virus can be identified.

In 2001, researchers in the Netherlands identified a new virus found in adults and children with respiratory infections, but until now the rate of infection caused by human metapneumovirus in children was not known.

Human Metapneumovirus Common in Children

In the study, published in the Jan. 29 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers tested for human metapneumovirus in otherwise healthy infants and children who were treated for respiratory illness.

Of the 248 nasal samples tested, researchers found the human metapneumovirus in 49 of the samples.

Researchers say that means 20% of lower respiratory tract illnesses -- such as bronchitis or pneumonia -- were caused by the human metapneumovirus. In addition, they estimate that 12% of all lower respiratory tract illnesses may be due to this virus.

The study also showed that much like other viruses that cause respiratory illness, infections with the human metapneumorvirus are most common during the winter.

Symptoms of the New Virus

The most common symptoms of human metapneumovirus infection in children are similar to other respiratory infections -- cough, fever, irritability, and runny nose.

There is no known treatment for human metapneumovirus. Fortunately, infection is rarely deadly, although 1 in 50 kids infected with the virus required hospitalization in a previous study.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Kenneth McIntosh, MD, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues say the findings "indicate that the human metapneumovirus is, with a few differences, a kid brother or sister to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that, particularly in young children, accounts for a very substantial proportion of cases previously relegated to the 'undiagnosed' category."

They say further research is now needed to better understand exactly what role the newly discovered virus plays in diseases found in adults and to develop ways to prevent the infection.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration