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Kolkata, India: Metapneumo Outbreak

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    Posted: October 10 2017 at 10:48am

New virus on the prowl in Kolkata

TNN | Updated: Oct 10, 2017, 06:03 IST
(Representative image)(Representative image)
KOLKATA: Even as Kolkata reels under a dengue outbreak, a newvirus is on the prowl and has laid hundreds low with fever, body ache and respiratory distress. Human metapneumo virus, which is activated by a sudden temperature drop, is active in the city, say experts. Like other seasonal viruses, this one too spreads through cough and sneeze droplets.

The sporadic showers since last week have cooled the city by a couple of degrees, a condition which is ideal for viruses to thrive, according to Arindam Biswas, senior consultant, general medicine, RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS).

Metapneumo, it seems, is the most prevalent this time. The typical symptoms are high fever, body ache, respiratory trouble and fatigue. It affects all age groups, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable. Those suffering from cardiac ailments or high blood sugar could have very severe symptoms due to their low immunity.

Public places like buses, trains, auditoria and classrooms are ideal locations for the spread of the virus, said Debashish Saha, consultant, AMRI Hospital. "It spreads through sneeze and cough droplets that often collect on bus handles, chairs, window sills and handkerchiefs. So, hand hygiene is very important. Hands should be washed regularly and tissues should be used instead of handkerchiefs," said Saha.

With schools shut for vacation, the spread has been checked among children so far, said Shantanu Ray, paediatrician. "But once the vacation ends, a spurt is imminent. Children are obviously less careful and so more susceptible to infections due to their low immunity. Metapneumo leads to respiratory problems in some children and there have been cases where hospitalization was required," said Ray.


With symptoms similar to that of dengue, physicians have often been left confused. Like dengue, metapneumo, too, kicks off with high fever and body ache. In many cases, it has been leading to diarrhoea. "Symptoms have been overlapping with dengue, which too has changed symptoms this season. Previously, dengue never caused diarrhoea, but now it is common. Dengue type II and type IV have been common this year and both are life-threatening. So, we are taking no chances and recommending a blood test even if we suspect it's a virus like rhino or metapneumo," said Biswas.


Unlike dengue, metapneumo virus is always accompanied by a respiratory infection.Asthma and COPD patients, those suffering from chest infection and children are more vulnerable, according to Irfaan Akhtar, head of microbiology and infection control, Fortis Hospital. "While fever and body ache are the most common dengue symptoms, in the case of metapneumo it is always accompanied by coughing and wheezing. For those with a history of chest ailments, the symptoms are likely to be more severe," said Akhtar.

But like most other seasonal viruses, metapneumo. too, can be countered with just paracetamol and symptomatic treatment. Antibiotics are not recommended unless there is an accompanying bacterial infection. "Bacterial infections are rare but could lead to severe complications. But seasonal viruses usually recede with time and rest," said Biswas.


The feature of this year's spread has been the scare of dengue. With the outbreak of dengue continuing, a panic has set in. "people are scared and many are rushing to get a blood test done. It's good to be careful, but treatment of viral diseases should be different from that of dengue," said Saha.

Absence of proof is not proof of absence.
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