A seasonal virus that hits children and the elderly especially hard is starting to make its rounds in western Massachusetts.
It's a tricky virus called the human metapneumovirus and springtime is when it starts to creep its way into doctors offices and emergency rooms.
The human metapneumovirus is seasonal, associated with the warmer temperatures of spring.
"It's a virus that was only recently discovered in 2001, primarily - in fact overwhelmingly - affects the respiratory track," said Dr. Michael Klatte with Baystate Medical Center.
Klatte told Western Mass News that thanks to warm days mixed in with those recent snow storms, we are actually in the peak of the metapneumovirus season.
"The virus typically is at its most active right as the number of cases of influenza and RSV are tailing off and are at the end is when we start to see cases of human metapneumovirus," Klatte explained.
For most of us, the virus feels just like a regular cold.
"It causes upper respiratory tract infections, cold symptoms. It can cause inflammation of the lower airways. For people who have asthma, it can cause asthma flares," Klatte added.
However, in the elderly and immune-compromised, it can escalate into viral pneumonia.
In children, "It can cause croup, so it’s one of the viruses that can cause that barky cough that keeps children up in the middle of the night," Klatte noted.
Human metapneumovirus can only be confirmed by a lab test. For most patients, Klatte said that's not necessary.
As for treating the virus, unfortunately, there's not much that can be done.
"There are symptomatic treatments of the cough itself, but there are no medications to kill the virus. It’s just a matter of time," Klatte said.
For most, simple cough medicine, Klatte said, is the only way to treat the symptoms until the virus runs it course.
Klatte said that the human metapneumovirus is spread just as a cold is spread. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, expelling viral-infected droplets onto others and shared surfaces.
Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.