Amid reports about 82 children affected by tomato Flu in India, on August 22, the Centre issued a health advisory to the states advising them to take preventive measures against the viral disease outbreak. Besides the 82 cases of tomato flu in Kerala, 26 cases have been reported from the adjoining states of Odisha and Tamil Nadu. In the absence of any specific treatment, the only way to combat the disease is to take suitable preventive measures. As news reports mention a rare, new viral infection, most people who are hearing about the disease for the first time might like to know what is tomato flu.
What is Tomato Flu?
Tomato Flu is the name of the virus new to Indians, as most people had no idea about the disease until it started occurring in children across various parts of the country. It’s a self-limiting illness, as reported by Lancet, and there are no specific drugs for tomato flu treatment. Consequently, those affected by the illness must bear with it and wait for the virus to subside. The disease primarily affects only children below ten years and seems to be a variant of HFMD or Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. However, it can occur in adults too. The advisory issued by the Centre stresses the need to sensitize children about the illness by educating them about the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms are Similar To Covid19
Many of the symptoms of tomato flu are similar to those of Covid19 and are a reason for people getting frightened. However, tomato flu is a non-life threatening disease. Initially, patients experience body ache, fever, and fatigue which happen in the case of Covid19, followed by inflamed blisters appearing all over the body, dehydration, nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue, and vomiting. The disease gets the name tomato flu from the inflamed blisters that look like ripe tomatoes.
Not a New Disease
Although tomato flu is a rare disease, it’s not new. According to Dr. Ekta Gupta, professor of virology at ILBS (Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences), the mention of HFMD is found in medical textbooks. Although it’s not a common disease, it occurs from time to time in various parts of India. The fear of Covid19 resurfacing as a new wave has turned the attention to HFMD.
According to experts, children who recover from dengue or chikungunya are most vulnerable to tomato flu, which could be an after-effect of dengue or chikungunya and not a viral infection. Although the tomato flu causes are still unclear, many experts believe it might be an HMFD variant because of its contagious nature.
Dr. Asawathiraj, who characterized the virus in Kerala and currently studying the infection, confirmed that Coxsackievirus A-6 and A-16 are responsible for causing the disease.
Awareness about what is tomato flu and knowing its causes can drive away people’s fear and help to control the disease.