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Tomato flu outbreak in India

Published on 25/08/22 at 09:54am

An outbreak of a viral infection known as “tomato flu” has led to India’s government issuing an advisory to all states. The new influenza was first detected in children in the southern Indian state of Kerala in May.

It has been announced that the virus has spread to two other states, the neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, and in Odisha in the east. Tomato flu is so-named because of the formation of red blisters in those infected, that later come to resemble tomatoes. The virus is reported to be very contagious.

According to an article in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 82 children aged under five have been diagnosed with the virus in Kerala, as of 26 July. In the neighbouring states children as old as nine have been infected, even though the virus usually affects those under the age of five.

The Lancet shared that “Although the tomato flu virus shows symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 (both are associated with fever, fatigue, and bodyaches initially, and some patients with COVID-19 also report rashes on the skin), the virus is not related to SARS-CoV-2. Tomato flu could be an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever in children rather than a viral infection.”

Scientists continue attempts to understand exactly what the virus is. Children are believed to be particularly vulnerable to tomato flu as it spreads easily though close contacts, such as unclean surfaces, and putting things in mouths.

The Lancet has underlined that tomato flu, also known as tomato fever is “non-life-threatening”. The initial symptoms of the disease include mild fever, poor appetite, malaise. Patients also often suffer a sore throat followed by fever, sores in the mouth and a skin rash.

“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,” the Lancet shared. “Some case studies have even shown hand, foot, and mouth disease in immunocompetent adults. Tomato flu is a self-limiting illness and no specific drug exists to treat it.”

Ana Ovey

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