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BiologyHealthTomato flu: All about the rare viral disease affecting children in India

Tomato flu: All about the rare viral disease affecting children in India

A new virus caused by the tomato flu or tomato fever virus has surfaced in Kerala among children younger than 5 years. The rare viral infection is in an endemic state and is considered non-life-threatening, but due to the long and tiring experience with the Covid-19 pandemic, the authority is not taking chances. 

With some symptoms similar to those of Covid-19 — like fever, fatigue and body aches initially and sometimes rashes on the skin — it is not caused by any variant of the -origin coronavirus.

The tomato flu was first identified in District Kollam of Kerala on 6 May. By 26 July, local government hospitals had reported more than 82 children younger than 5 years with the infection. The other affected areas of Kerala are Anchal, Aryankavu, and Neduvathur. 

This endemic viral illness triggered an alert in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Regional Medical in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, has reported an additional 26 children (aged 1-9 years) as having the disease. So far, apart from Kerala, Tamilnadu and Odisha, no other region in India has been affected by the virus. However, the Kerala Health Department is taking precautionary measures to monitor the spread of the viral infection and prevent its spread in other parts of the country.

What is tomato flu?

Tomato Flu is a rare viral disease, which causes red-coloured rashes, skin irritation and dehydration, and the disease gets its name from the blisters it causes, which look like tomatoes. It is a form of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). Till now, most of the reported cases of Tomato Flu or Tomato Fever are among children from age 1-9. The illness is rare in adults as they usually have immune systems strong enough to defend them from the virus.

Tomato flu symptoms

Tomato Flu is characterised by the following symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Painful sores in the mouth
  • Rash with blisters on hands, feet and buttocks
  • Body ache
  • Joint swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Skin irritation
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea and nausea
  • Vomiting

Is it a form of Covid-19? 

The virus is not related to SARS-CoV-2. tomato flu could be an after-effect of chikungunya or fever in children rather than a viral infection.

The virus could also be a new variant of the viral hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting mostly children aged 1–5 years and immunocompromised adults, and some case studies have even shown hand, foot, and mouth disease in immunocompetent adults.5 tomato flu is a self-limiting illness and no specific drug exists to treat it. 

Though some symptoms are similar to Covid-19, the tomato flu has nothing to do with Covid-19. These symptoms are usually seen in other types of viral infections also.

Treatment measures for tomato flu

The tomato Flu or tomato fever is a self-limiting one and there are no specific drugs for it. If someone is inflicted by this disease they should be kept in isolation as it spread fast from one person to the other. Those found with the infection are asked to remain in isolation for five-seven days. The treatment for tomato flu or tomato fever is similar to chikungunya or as the symptoms are similar. Patients are given plenty of fluids and a hot water sponge to get rid of the rash. 

How to prevent tomato flu?

Sanitisation and hygienic surroundings are a must to stop the spread of tomato flu or tomato fever. Infected children must be kept in isolation till the symptoms have subsided completely and sharing of food, toys, clothes and other items must be prevented. Infected children should avoid touching or scratching the blisters.

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