Tomato Flu Latest Update: Amid fears of the Monkeypox outbreak and the impact of COVID-19, several viral diseases are being reported across India. One such disease, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease commonly known as Tomato Flu is being detected among infants and schoolchildren in several states in India, particularly in the southern part of the country, over the past three months.
On May 6, 2022, the first case of Tomato flu was reported in the Kollam district of Kerala. According to The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, as of July 26, 2022, more than 82 children younger than 5 years with the infection have been reported by the local government hospitals.
“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, the vigilant management is desirable to prevent further outbreaks,” the report published last month in the medical journal stated.
Last week, the central government issued an advisory directing parents to ensure that their children avoid hugging or touching their peers. As of now, no death has been reported due to Tomato flu in India.
What is Tomato Flu?
Caused by Coxsackie virus A16 (a non-polio enterovirus), Tomato Flu is highly contagious and spreads through contagious secretions from the nose, throat, fluid from the blisters, and feco-oral route. According to doctors, several states are witnessing a drastic surge in cases of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.
According to The Lancet report, the primary symptoms observed in children with tomato flu are similar to those of chikungunya, which include high fever, rashes, and intense pain in joints.
The disease is called Tomato Flu as there are eruptions of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato.
“This is a kind of enterovirus which is a common infection in children with less than 5 years of age. It can cause blisters in hand, foot, palm and mouth. Sometimes they cause red blisters which resembles with tomato and that’s why its named as tomato flu or fever,” Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director – Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital told Financial Express.com.
Symptoms of Tomato Flu
According to the Union Health Ministry, along with blisters, other symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration, swelling of joints, body aches, and common influenza-like symptoms. This disease usually affects children and flare-ups are usually seen in those attending kindergarten.
Moreover, doctors advised that these lesions on the skin are highly contagious and should not be scratched. There may be striking ulcers present on the palate of the mouth.
The initial symptoms of the disease resemble those of other viral infections and include mild fever, poor appetite, malaise and often a sore throat followed by fever, sores in the mouth and a skin rash.
These sores are usually found on the tongue, gums, inside cheeks, palms, and soles. Officials have said if children show symptoms, they should be quickly isolated for 5-7 days to prevent the spread of infection to other children or adults.
How Tomato Flu is diagnosed?
According to experts, among children with symptoms, molecular and serological tests are done for the diagnosis of dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes. After Tomato Flu is confirmed, symptomatic treatment is required as there is no specific therapy. According to the Lancet Journal, 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.
It is noteworthy that children under five years of age are at high risk of getting infected. However, in the current outbreak Children up to the age of Nine years have also been infected with Tomato Flu in Odisha. Moreover, immunocompromised adults are also at a greater risk of getting infected with this viral disease.
“It is a highly contagious virus and can spread through respiratory secretions from the nose and mouth and can cause transfer through faecal oral route that is through food and dirty hands. Children less than 5 years are more exposed and are at risk population for this flu,” Dr. Kataria said.
Treatment of Tomato Flu
Reportedly, precautionary measures are being taken by the Kerala Health Department at present to monitor the spread of the viral infection and prevent its spread in other parts of India.
According to the Lancet report, as tomato flu is similar to chikungunya and dengue as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease, treatment is also similar—isolation, rest, plenty of fluids, and a hot water sponge for the relief of irritation and rashes. Moreover, supportive therapy of paracetamol for fever and bodyache and other symptomatic treatments are required.
“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 study revealed.
“Hand foot mouth diseases usually are a common diseases in children and their occurrence becomes common during the summer and monsoon season. We can control the spread by maintaining proper hand hygiene, observing respiratory etiquettes, wearing mask, not sending the infected children to school,” She added.
The advisory released by the centre for the prevention of Tomato flu says that the recommended course of treatment is the same as for other viral infections i.e. isolation, rest, plenty of drinks, and hot water sponges to soothe itching and rashes.
At present, no antiviral drugs or vaccines are available for the treatment or prevention of tomato flu.