Amid the scare of COVID-19 and monkeypox, there is another viral infection affecting young children in the country – tomato flu. The disease which is mostly affecting children aged 1-10 is seeing a rise in the country.
With two more states reporting a surge in the cases apart from Kerala, the central government has sent an advisory to these states, informing them about the disease and necessary measures to be taken.
With more than 82 cases of tomato flu reported in children in the country, the Centre on Tuesday asked the states to follow preventive measures, stressing that there is no specific medication to treat the viral disease.
Also read: Lancet report warns about ‘very contagious’ tomato flu in India
The disease, which seems to be a variant of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), occurs mainly in children under 10 years of age, but it can occur in adults too, an advisory issued by the Centre said.
Cases in India
The first case of tomato flu was reported in the Kollam district of Kerala on May 6 this year and as of July 26, more than 82 children aged below five years have been reported to have contracted the infection by the local government hospitals.
This endemic viral illness triggered an alert in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Additionally, 26 children (aged one to nine years) have been reported as having the disease in Odisha by the Regional Medical Research Centre in Bhubaneswar.
Apart from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Odisha, no other region in India has reported the disease.
Tomato flu or tomato fever is a viral disease, which derives its name from its main symptom – the tomato-shaped blisters that erupt on various body parts.
As per the advisory, the disease is self-limiting as the signs and symptoms reside after a few days. The blisters start as red-coloured small blisters and resemble tomatoes when they enlarge.
Primary symptoms observed in children with tomato flu are similar to those of other viral infections such as dengue, COVID-19 and chikungunya. Primary symptoms include fever, rashes and pain in joints.
Other symptoms also include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration, swelling of joints, body ache, and common influenza-like symptoms.
The disease begins with mild fever, poor appetite, malaise, and often a sore throat. One or two days after the fever begins, small red spots appear which changes to blister and then to ulcers.
The sores that develop are usually located on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, palms and soles.
As per the advisory, in children with these symptoms, molecular and serological tests are done for the diagnosis of dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes. Once these viral infections are ruled out, a diagnosis of tomato flu is considered.
Prevention and cure
The advisory highlighted that the best solution for prevention is the maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitisation of the surrounding necessities as well as preventing the infected child from sharing toys, clothes, and food, with other non-infected children.
“Tell your child not to hug or touch children having fever or rash symptoms. You should encourage your children to stop thumb or finger-sucking habits. Encourage the child to use a handkerchief in case of running nose or coughing,” the advisory read.
It also said that children should be kept hydrated and warm water must be used for bathing the child.
There are no disease-specific medications available for the illness, the advisory said, adding that treatment is similar to other viral infections – isolation, rest, taking plenty of fluids and a hot water sponge for relief of irritation and rashes.
Supportive therapy of paracetamol for fever and body ache and other symptomatic treatments are also required.
As per the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, if the outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission might spread to adults as well.
The study said that the disease is in its endemic stage.
As per the study, the virus can be a new variant of the viral hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting mostly children aged 15 years and immunocompromised adults.
(With inputs from agencies)