Medical experts are urging vigilance as a new virus impacting children runs rampant across three regions in India.
“Tomato flu” was first identified in the Kollam district of Kerala, India, on May 6 and has so far infected 82 children under the age of 5.
According to the Lancet report, Tomato Flu is non-life threatening but “highly infectious” disease which needs to be vigilantly managed to prevent further outbreaks.
“The rare viral infection is in an endemic state and is considered non-life-threatening; however, because of the dreadful experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilant management is desirable to prevent further outbreaks,” the Lancet reported.
Experts believe the virus could be a new variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting children under five years and immunocompromised adults.
“Children are at increased risk of exposure to tomato flu as viral infections are common in this age group and spread is likely to be through close contact.”
“Given the similarities to hand, foot, and mouth disease, if the outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission might lead to serious consequences by spreading in adults as well,” Lancet reported.
Tomato Flu shows symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 – fever, fatigue, and body aches – but the virus has not been found to be related to SARS-CoV-2.
Tomato flu could be an after-effect of chikungunya – a virus spread to people by mosquitoes – or dengue fever, rather than a viral infection.
Tomato Flu blisters resemble those seen with the monkeypox virus.
Studies into the new outbreak are ongoing.
What are the symptoms of Tomato Flu?
Symptoms of Tomato Flu include:
sore, red blisters that appear on the skin
common influenza-like symptoms
How do you treat Tomato Flu?
Tomato Flu currently has no antiviral drugs or vaccines available for treatment or prevention, with health experts urging “careful isolation” mandatory in preventing the spread.
“Isolation should be followed for 5 to 7 days from symptom onset to prevent the spread of infection to other children or adults,” the Lancet reported.
The medical experts said the best solution for prevention is “hygiene and sanitisation” as well as preventing infected children from sharing toys, clothes and food with non-infected people.
Where is Tomato Flu found?
Apart from Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Odisha, no other regions in India have been affected by the virus.
Australia has reported no cases of Tomato Flu to date.