Outbreaks of Human Metapneumovirus in Western Sydney Aged-Care Facilities in 2018

Commun Dis Intell (2018). 2022 Aug 18:46. doi: 10.33321/cdi.2022.46.54.


Background: Human metapneumovirus (hMPV), first described in 2001, is a cause of acute respiratory tract infection in the elderly, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including pneumonia, but outbreaks are rarely described.

Methods: Between 1 July and 31 December 2018, there were three outbreaks of Influenza-like Illness (ILI) where hMPV was the primary pathogen observed, among 64 aged-care facilities (ACFs) in Western Sydney. These outbreaks were investigated by the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Public Health Unit (PHU); multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing was performed on nasopharyngeal swabs collected by the ACF.

Results: hMPV was the main causative pathogen in three outbreaks (27, 28, and 15 symptomatic cases, respectively) in late winter and early spring. Fifty-five residents and 15 staff cases (70 total cases) were identified; hMPV was detected in 12 of 63 specimens submitted. Of the cases in residents, eight were hospitalised (8/63; 15%), including five with confirmed hMPV and a further one epidemiologically linked to a positive case. Six residents died (6/63; 11%) during the hMPV outbreaks; four of these had laboratory-confirmed hMPV, with a further case epidemiologically linked to a hMPV case, with a primary diagnosis of pneumonia/viral pneumonia. The sixth death was not epidemiologically linked, nor did this case exhibit any respiratory symptoms during the outbreak; however, it was reported in line with public health guidelines.

Conclusion: A major challenge in 2018 was the incompleteness of testing for, and awareness of, hMPV as a viral cause of ILI by facilities, laboratories, and emergency departments, which generally opted for rapid testing for influenza and RSV only. There is no licensed vaccine or approved treatment for hMPV, so efficient infection control measures are most important.

Keywords: Viral respiratory illness; aged care; human metapneumovirus.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Metapneumovirus*
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections* / diagnosis
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology