BACKGROUND - Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a leading cause of acute respiratory illness (ARI) in children. Population-based incidence rates and comprehensive clinical characterizations of disease have not been established.
METHODS - We conducted population-based prospective surveillance for 2 years in 2 US counties of HMPV infection among children <5 years old who were hospitalized with ARI or fever. Nasal and throat specimens obtained with swabs were tested for HMPV by real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction and genotyped.
RESULTS - Forty-two (3.8%) of 1104 children tested positive for HMPV. The overall annual rate of HMPV-associated hospitalizations per 1000 children <5 years old was 1.2 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.9-1.6). This rate was highest among infants 0-5 months old (4.9 per 1000 [95% CI, 2.9-7.2]), followed by children 6-11 months old (2.9 per 1000 [95% CI, 1.4-4.7]). The annual rate of hospitalization for HMPV infection was less than that for respiratory syncytial virus infection but similar to that for influenza and parainfluenza virus 3 infection in all age groups. The mean age of children hospitalized with HMPV infection was 6 months. Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and asthma were the most common diagnoses among children with HMPV infection. All 4 HMPV subgroups were detected during both years at both sites. HPMV infection was most prominent from March through May.
CONCLUSION - HMPV was detected in 3.8% of children hospitalized with ARI or fever, with a population incidence similar to that of influenza virus and parainfluenza virus 3.