The Stealthy Surge: NSW Battling an Unfamiliar Viral MenaceStealthySurge,NSW,Battling,Unfamiliar,ViralMenace
The Stealthy Surge: NSW Battling an Unfamiliar Viral Menace

The Stealthy Surge: NSW Battling an Unfamiliar Viral Menace

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National Illness: A virus you’ve never heard of is taking hold in NSW

By | September 26, 2023 | The Sydney Morning Herald

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV), a relatively unknown virus, is rapidly spreading across New South Wales (NSW). In the past week alone, 1,168 cases of hMPV have been detected, surpassing the number of influenza cases. However, experts believe that many individuals who contract the virus do not seek testing, resulting in an underestimation of case numbers.

According to Professor William Rawlinson, a virology and molecular biology specialist at the University of NSW, hMPV is more severe this year due to the removal of COVID-19 mitigations such as mask-wearing. He suggests that the lack of exposure to other respiratory viruses, such as rhinovirus and influenza, over the past three years has made individuals more susceptible to severe illness from hMPV. Young children and individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Rise of hMPV

Human metapneumovirus was only discovered 23 years ago, making it a relatively new virus. It shares common symptoms with respiratory viruses, including nasal congestion, coughs, shortness of breath, and fever. In severe cases, it can progress to pneumonia and bronchitis, leading to fatal outcomes.

Currently, there is no specific medicinal treatment for hMPV, and antivirals have proven ineffective against it. Vaccines are also not yet available, although Moderna is in the early stages of developing an mRNA-based vaccine for hMPV.

The Forgotten Cousin

Virologist Dr. John-Sebastian Eden from the University of Sydney describes hMPV as the “forgotten cousin” of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He believes that hMPV has been underappreciated for its potential severity, especially in children and the elderly. With the decline of COVID-19 protocols like mask-wearing, respiratory viruses, including hMPV, are now following their regular seasonal patterns.

Dr. Eden notes that RSV usually peaks in early winter, influenza follows in midwinter, and hMPV strikes with a peak as the seasons transition into spring. This return to seasonal patterns, combined with increased awareness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has led individuals to realize that hMPV is more than just the flu. It reinforces the importance of maintaining the protocols learned during the pandemic to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

Editorial: Addressing the Threat of hMPV

The emergence of the hMPV virus as a significant health concern in NSW raises important questions about our approach to infectious diseases. While COVID-19 has dominated the global stage, this lesser-known virus threatens to undermine our progress in controlling respiratory illnesses. As we shift our focus from COVID-19 towards other infectious threats, it is crucial that we adapt our strategies and remain vigilant.

Firstly, increased public awareness is essential. Many individuals are unfamiliar with hMPV and its potential severity. Public health agencies should invest in educational campaigns to inform the community about the symptoms, transmission, and risks associated with hMPV. By raising awareness, we can encourage individuals to seek testing and follow preventive measures, reducing the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, research into effective treatments and vaccines for hMPV needs to be accelerated. As seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and reducing morbidity and mortality. Pharmaceutical companies should prioritize the development of vaccines and antivirals targeting hMPV to protect vulnerable populations, such as young children and those with weakened immune systems.

Lastly, the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic should not be forgotten. The importance of mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette cannot be underestimated in preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses, including hMPV. These practices should be encouraged and reinforced, especially during peak seasons for respiratory illnesses.

Advice: Protecting Yourself and Others

Given the rise in hMPV cases in NSW, it is crucial that individuals take steps to protect themselves and others from the virus. Here are some recommendations to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading hMPV:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who are sick, especially those exhibiting respiratory symptoms.
  • Wear a mask in crowded indoor settings or when social distancing is not possible.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell, and seek medical attention if you develop symptoms such as nasal congestion, coughs, shortness of breath, or fever.
  • Follow the advice and guidelines provided by NSW Health and other relevant health authorities.

By implementing these preventative measures and staying informed about hMPV, we can collectively combat the spread of this unfamiliar virus and protect the well-being of our communities.


The Stealthy Surge: NSW Battling an Unfamiliar Viral Menace
<< photo by Anna Shvets >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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Patterson Fiona

Hello, Australia! Fiona Patterson here. I'm your go-to gal for all things politics. I've been on the beat for more than a decade, so when it comes to the ins and outs of Canberra, I'm fair dinkum. Let's rip into it and cut through the jargon together.

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