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‘Tomato flu’ in India

Published: 25th Aug, 2022


A new virus known as tomato flu, or tomato fever, has emerged in India in the state of Kerala in children younger than 5 years.


About the disease

  • The rare viral infection is in an endemic to the state and is considered non-life-threatening.
  • Although the tomato flu virus shows symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 the virus is not related to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Its symptoms ranges to;
  • Fever, fatigue, and body aches initially, and some patients also report rashes on the skin.
  • Tomato flu is a self-limiting illness and no specific drug exists to treat it.

Cause of spread among Children

  • Tomato flu could be an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever in children rather than a viral infection.
  • The virus can also be a new variant of the viral hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting mostly children aged 1–5 years.

Tomato flu gained its name on the basis of the eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato.  These blisters resemble those seen with the monkey pox virus in young individuals.

  • 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.
  • Young children are also prone to this infection through use of nappies, touching unclean surfaces, as well as putting things directly into the mouth.

Implications and Prevention

  • Similar to other types of influenza, tomato flu is very contagious.
  • Hence, it is mandatory to follow careful isolation of confirmed or suspected cases and other precautionary steps to prevent the outbreak of the tomato flu virus from Kerala to other parts of India.
  • Isolation should be followed for 5–7 days from symptom onset to prevent the spread of infection to other children or adults.
  • The best solution for prevention is the maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitisation of the surrounding necessities and environment as well as preventing the infected child from sharing toys, clothes, food, or other items with other non-infected children.

Is Treatment available?

  • As yet, no antiviral drugs or vaccines are available for the treatment or prevention of tomato flu.

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