Another respiratory virus has joined COVID-19 and influenza on seniors’ list of concerns as outside temperatures cool and winter months loom.
There are now two cases of hMPV (human metapneumovirus) in a unit at Holy Family Home in Winnipeg.
In a letter this week, Executive Director Tara-Lee Procter said both residents are in a “respiratory outbreak” and their families have been contacted by phone.
Additionally, two Sagrada Familia units have declared COVID-19 outbreaks (with six residents testing positive in one unit and four in another). One resident who had previously tested positive for the new coronavirus and another with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) were expected to have their declared illnesses resolved by November 3.
Procter said all other residents in the care home, on Main Street and Redwood Avenue, will be closely monitored for symptoms and will only be tested if they have symptoms. Designated caregivers may continue to visit, wearing personal protective equipment.
HMPV was discovered about 20 years ago by researchers in the Netherlands. Most cases have cold symptoms, with more severe cases progressing to pneumonia in the lungs.
People at higher risk include immunocompromised people (including infants and the elderly), people with cancer, and older people diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Aged, said while it’s not a new virus to care homes, it’s still serious.
“(It’s) just not as popular as some other viruses,” he said.
“HMPV is another respiratory virus that acts very similar to the flu, where you may experience cough, fever, nasal congestion and shortness of breath. This infection can progress to bronchitis or pneumonia, just like other viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
“If it gets into the lungs and turns into pneumonia, it can have some unfortunate results.”
Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said older people with weaker immune systems are at risk, but most people diagnosed with hMPV are children under the age of five.
“Like any virus that can cause lower respiratory tract infections, it can increase the risk of progression to bronchitis or pneumonia,” he said.
Carr said studies have shown that by the time people turn 25, they have been infected with hMPV. There is no vaccine.
He noted that current national surveillance data shows the country is experiencing higher than normal hMPV positive test rates. However, with less than two percent positive results, these are still lower numbers than other viruses.
A provincial spokesman said the virus shows up during cold weather, like most other respiratory viruses, and outbreaks are rare.
“It has been around for a long time, as have many viruses that the average person is unlikely to have read about,” the spokesman said Thursday.
“Cadham (Provincial) Lab monitors the virus and reports any unusual activity to public health but, at this time, there is nothing unusual to report.”
A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it’s a reminder that the best protection is to practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, while other ways to avoid exposure or spreading viruses are to wear a mask and stay home when sick.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 is still causing outbreaks in Manitoba’s personal care homes and hospital wards.
The latest WRHA report details that 13 personal care homes, five hospitals, as well as two units at Riverview Health Center and one at St. Amant, are currently battling COVID-19 outbreaks.
The WRHA also reports that room GD4 at the Health Sciences Center has an outbreak of gastroenteritis; St. Norbert and Charleswood PCHs have respiratory outbreaks; and Beacon Hill Lodge has a scabies outbreak.
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