When I receive an email pitch with a subject line that reads “The most important virus you’ve never heard of,” I’m inclined to open it, ask questions and then commission the story – promptly.

That’s how today’s article on human metapneumovirus, or HMPV, came about. And our team of science and health editors, including those of us who are parents, hadn’t heard of it, despite the fact that we’ve become well-versed in virology over the past few years.

Many people in the health care field haven’t heard of it, either, writes John V. Williams, a pediatrician, virologist and infectious disease specialist from the University of Pittsburgh. The virus wasn’t identified until 2001, which makes it a relative newcomer in the field of medicine – and most people who go to the doctor with symptoms won’t even be tested for it, Williams explains.

But HMPV is the scourge behind many of the respiratory infections that are filling hospital beds and ICUs this spring. While most cases are mild, the virus can cause severe illness, especially in children and older adults.

Also today:

Amanda Mascarelli

Senior Health and Medicine Editor

Human metapneumovirus, or HMPV, peaks in North America from February to May, just on the heels of flu season. martin-dm/E+ via Getty Images

Human metapneumovirus, or HMPV, is filling ICUs this spring – a pediatric infectious disease specialist explains this little-known virus

John V. Williams, University of Pittsburgh

Similar to the patterns seen with COVID-19, flu and RSV, HMPV is making a comeback after years of being repressed by people wearing masks and social distancing.

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