A human parainfluenza virus (HPIV) illness recently caused havoc in our house. One of My husband’s relatives called it a ‘power virus’ and indeed so it seemed. Not Covid-19 or any of its variants. Not the dreaded influenza virus. But a nasty little bug that, for most people, causes the symptoms of a common cold invited itself to use our bodies as its hosts.
The HPIV is not an influenza virus, but related to measles and mumps, or so I read on Dr Google. There are four main types, each causing its own brand of related misery. No vaccine exists against it and no treatment exists, other than care of the symptoms.
Symptoms of Human Parainfluenza Virus disease
This disease usually causes mild symptoms such as slight fever, runny nose and cough. But in susceptible people, including small children, the aged and severely immunocompromised, symptoms can be severe.
They include lower respiratory illnesses, such as croup, which affects the vocal cords of small children, causing distressing paroxysmal coughing fits. It can also include bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Throw in inflamation of the trachea for good measure.
Other symptoms may be sore throat, sneezing, wheezing, ear pain and irritability.
How it treated my husband
My husband’s illness started as a slight cold. Two days into it, he felt quite ill. When his temperature reached 39 degrees celsius, we made the decision that he needed to see a doctor. Sunday afternoon and I opted for the recently opened emergency department of a private hospital a few kilometres away, rather than the ED of the closest public hospital.
I’d been there a month or so previously. Ambulance ramping and crowded conditions meant I sat in a wheelchair in a corridor with concussion, bleeding from a head wound, for some hours. You can read about my scary hours in the emergency department here.
The private ED felt calm. The staff interviewed my husband in a private room, and admitted him to a short-stay ward where he remained for nine days.
He became increasingly ill. His temperature rose. He suffered from delirium due to the fever. Here’s a link to my blog about delirium. The ministrations of the staff could not stave off pneumonia. Eventually, he went to his daughter’s house for three more days.
He is at home now. He’s weak, coughing, pale and far from well. But improving.
My skirmish with the Parainfluenza Virus
My bout of this HPIV illness, by comparison, was mild. However, after the second day of my husband’s hospitalisation, I could no longer visit him. I isolated myself in the apartment and spent a miserable and rather lonely week. My family called every day, but I needed nothing but rest while I recovered from the illness combined with resulting tracheitis.
The general practice we usually attend sensibly conducts phone consultations for infectious patients with one of the general practitioners. During my second appointment, I described the infection in my trachea as ‘burning pain behind my sternum’ and the feeling of drowning.
I could not look after myself and my husband until I felt much better, hence his sojourn with his family.
My recovery was uneventful. Apart from a cough I’m told will last a few weeks, my life has returned to almost normal. Sadly, my goals and plans from my birthday a few weeks ago have been put on the backburner. I look forward to beginning again soon.
Prevention of HPIV
This viral illness, like the others, can be prevented in the usual ways:
- Frequent handwashing with so soap and water
- Avoiding touching your mouth, nose and eyes
- Avoiding close contact with others who are sick
- Wearing a mask
- Staying home if you are sick
- Covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Keeping objects and surfaces clean and disinfected.