BOSTON — According to research published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, not all respiratory ailments that generate influenza-like symptoms can be attributed to the flu. The human metapneumovirus — which is not a strain of influenza, is impervious to antiviral medicines like Tamiflu and does not have an available vaccine according to reports — causes just as many hospitalizations and outpatient visits among children as does the flu.
In a study tracking almost 10,500 children who presented with acute respiratory illness or fever, HMPV infections represented 6% of the children who were hospitalized, 7% of the children treated for such symptoms in an outpatient clinic and 7% of children in the emergency room on account of those symptoms.
"Children hospitalized with HMPV infection, as compared with those hospitalized without HMPV infection, were older and more likely to receive a diagnosis of pneumonia or asthma, to require supplemental oxygen, and to have a longer stay in the intensive care unit," noted researchers. "HMPV infection is associated with a substantial burden of hospitalizations and outpatient visits among children throughout the first five years of life, especially during the first year. Most children with HMPV infection were previously healthy."
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