A new virus has been reported in the Indian city of Kolkata. So far over a 100 people have been infected by this virus. This article will talk about the incident and the virus.
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the new virus family of Pneumoviridae. The genome of the virus comprises of 8 genes encoding a total of 9 proteins. It was first isolated from a group of 28 young children in the Netherlands. These children had symptoms similar to upper respiratory tract disease or severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia. The technique used for isolation was RAP-PCR (RNA arbitrarily primed PCR).
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV)
The virus is predominant in the temperate regions of the world finding a host in cattle, rodents, and humans. It causes mild infection in the upper respiratory tract, infecting the airway epithelial cells in the nose and lung. In mouse models, infection with HMPV accompanies a significant increase in IL4 and CD4+ lymphocytes. Individuals who are immunocompromised, older than 65 years of age, or are living with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be severely affected and might even require hospitalization. In severe cases, it may even lead to death.
According to a paper in the journal Viruses, HMPV antibodies have existed in humans for over 50 years. And by the age of 5, almost all children are infected with this virus. There do not exist any vaccination or any other specific drug for humans in spite of being successfully tested in animal models. In any case, the symptomatic treatment with paracetamol helps and for bacterial infections an antibiotic maybe prescribed as well. Ribavirin, an antiviral medication used for the treatment of hepatitis C, and viral hemorrhagic fever are also used to target HMPV.
The sudden decline in the temperatures due to rain has probably activated HMPV in Kolkata. Like most other viruses it also spreads via the cough and sneezes droplets. The common symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, bodyache, and cough. Public places like buses and schools are hotspots for such a spread. Given that its Diwali vacation time school-children seems to have managed to escape this menace. But what is worrying many in the health sector is the fact that many of the HMPV’s symptoms overlap with that of Dengue and the city of Kolkata is currently already battling with rising Dengue cases. Sneezing and coughing are the only two major symptoms which separate the two infections.
Cautions and vigilance are recommended to everyone.
1] Haas LEM, Thijsen SFT, van Elden L and Heemstra KA Human Metapneumovirus in Adults Viruses January 2013