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Little-Known Virus Sends Many Kids to Hospital

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Children hospitalized with an HPMV infection were more likely to also have pneumonia or asthma, to need oxygen therapy and to have a longer stay in the intensive care unit. Children with asthma or who had been born prematurely were more likely to be hospitalized with HPMV. However, most children who contracted the virus were otherwise healthy, according to the study.

The researchers estimate that the annual number of outpatient visits is about 55 per 1,000 children, and the number of ER visits is likely 13 per 1,000 children. That means about 1 million outpatient visits and 263,000 emergency room visits in children under 5 years old each year are due to this virus.

"The study suggests that 20,000 hospitalizations annually in kids under 5 are due to this virus. That would be a good argument for developing a vaccine," said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, director of the Vaccine Research Center, and chairman of pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in New York City.

Bromberg said that parents don't need to be any more concerned about this virus than they are about flu or RSV.

Study author Williams agreed and said that by age 5, almost everyone has already had this disease. Each year, its peak activity tends to be from February through April, he said. And, the symptoms are like those of the common cold: runny nose, cough and fever. He said without testing, it's difficult to know what virus someone has, but there isn't a rapid test available for HPMV.

There's also no specific treatment for HPMV. The medications that can help ease symptoms of flu don't help with HPMV.

More information

Learn more about human metapneumovirus from the American Lung Association.

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