What is Tomato Flu that has put health officials of Kerala and neighbouring states on high alert?

The flu causes rashes and red blisters on the infected child’s body which are generally red in colour and consequently it is called Tomato Flu or Tomato fever.

Tomato Flu, Kerala, Tomato fever, tomato flu in Kerela, health news, health updates,
Doctors and health experts have cautioned that like any other flu, tomato fever is also contagious. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Amid the speculations over a potential fourth wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, another viral flu has crept its way into Kerala. With threats of Nipah outbreak, Kerala has reported multiple cases of Tomato Flu which is primarily affecting children under the age of five years.

After cases of Tomato Flu were reported in several parts of Kerala, neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have ramped up surveillance at their borders. Reportedly, nearly 80 children have been affected by Tomato Flu in Kerala so far.

What is Tomato Flu?

The flu causes rashes and red blisters on the infected child’s body which are generally red in colour and consequently it is called Tomato Flu or Tomato fever. Several health experts maintain that there is a possibility that the disease is a viral fever or an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever.

“The name “tomato flu” is a misnomer. It is a rare viral infection of uncertain origin that gets its name from the typical tomato-shaped red rashes that it causes on the body of infected individuals. It is not known if the fever is related to chikungunya or dengue that it mimicks in presentation,” Dr. Darshana Reddy, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Altius Hospital, Bangalore told Financial Express.com.

Dr. P Aruna, the deputy director of health services, Coimbatore, told The Indian Express that three teams comprising revenue inspectors, health inspectors and police have been deployed on a shift basis and this official will monitor if someone has fever and rashes.

What are the signs and symptoms? Who does it affect?

According to doctors, the rare flu affects children below five years of age. The symptoms include rashes, skin irritation and dehydration. According to several reports, the flu can also cause tiredness, joint pain, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, high fever, and body ache. It has been observed that in some infected patients, it may also change the colour of the legs and the hands.

“Symptoms of tomato flu are like that of any viral infection with a prodrome of tiredness, body ache, joint pain, cold, cough followed by moderate to high-grade fever, and red tomato-shaped rashes all over the body. There may be abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, loose stools, and discolouration of the skin over the hands, elbows, knees and buttocks. Dehydration is a concerning sign of the disease that needs hospitalization,” Dr. Reddy said.

According to doctors, there is no specific drug for Tomato Flu. However, the symptoms resolve on their own when proper care and support are given to the infected patients.

How can tomato fever be treated?

Doctors and health experts have cautioned that like any other flu, tomato fever is also contagious. As Tomato Flu is mostly affecting children, government officials are screening Anganwadi centres across the Coimbatore and reportedly 24 mobile teams with health officers have been deployed. Doctors are suggesting it is important to prevent the infected children from scratching the blisters caused by the flu. The patients need to keep themselves hydrated and maintain proper hygiene and sanitation. According to reports, authorities are predicting that the number of cases may go higher.

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