An infectious disease expert has confirmed that a viral respiratory illness is surging in multiple states.
NSW residents are coming forward with symptoms of the Human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) at an alarming rate, a new report has found.
Infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Dr Paul Griffin said he is seeing a similar surge in cases in Queensland.
“It’s interesting, a lot of other respiratory viruses on the decline, but hMPV does appear to still be increasing,” he said on Wednesday.
While Dr Griffin doesn’t think this is the “next global pandemic” he urged people to do their part to protect the more vulnerable in their communities.
“We’re not suggesting that this is going to be something that’s going to be pervasive, and everybody’s going to necessarily get unwell,” he said.
More than 1000 people have come down with a little known virus in NSW. Picture: Supplied
“But we’re seeing people hospitalized recently in my hospital and it can also cause outbreaks in aged care for example.
“That’s why it is important to not just focus on COVID, flu and even RSV, but to get those basics right, across the spectrum, to protect yourself from respiratory illness.”
He suggests washing hands, wearing a mask if sick, and most importantly staying at home and isolating where possible if you are sick.
Earlier in the day, Dr Nick Coatsworth described it as “the virus you’ve never heard of but a virus that all of us have almost certainly had”.
“It’s one of the common cold viruses that circulates every single year and NSW seems to be going through a little uptick at the moment,” he told 2GB radio station.
More than 1100 people reported a positive case of the respiratory illness last week, according to NSW health data.
The number of positive PCR test results for hMPV in NSW laboratories between January and September 17. Picture: NSW Health
The number of Rhinovirus cases reported in positive PCR tests over the same period. Picture: NSW Health
It is a 15 per cent increase on the number of cases reported the week before.
Over the last month cases have spiked significantly with just 383 cases reported in the week ending on August 13.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the health department is seeing a “resurgence of respiratory viruses.”
“We’ve now seen an uptick in flu, RSV, and hMPV is yet another virus,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
She said that while there isn’t any treatment for hMPV, it is a reminder to residents to bring back some of the key infection prevention measures from the pandemic.
“Stay away from workplaces and crowded places when you’ve got any viral infections and and stay stay home if you can,” she said.
The virus is spreading quickly across the state, with a 15 per cent increase in cases over the last week. Picture: Supplied
Symptoms of hMPV are similar to the common cold including nasal congestion, coughs, shortness of breath and a fever.
Although some severe cases can cause complications that lead to bronchitis or pneumonia and can be more dangerous for immunocompromised and vulnerable groups.
However Dr Coatsworth it shouldn’t be a concern and an uptick in cases is common at this time of year.
“Usually that happens when you have a change of season, we see some of these non-Covid respiratory viruses when we go from winter through to spring,” he said.
More than 1400 cases of flu infection and 436 cases of RSV were reported in NSW last week.
Rhinovirus, the most common cause of the cold, remains the dominant respiratory virus reported in health department testing, but hMPV is taking up an increasing share (4.6 per cent) of the total load.