TOMATO FLU : A BIZARRE FOLLOW-UP TO SOARING TOMATO PRICES!

A new viral illness has emerged in the state of Kerala, India, primarily affecting children under the age of 5. Referred to as tomato flu or tomato fever, this rare infection shares some symptoms with COVID-19, although it is unrelated to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While the virus is considered non-life-threatening, it has garnered attention due to the experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the need for vigilant management to prevent further outbreaks.

The symptoms of tomato flu include red and painful blisters that gradually grow in size, giving them a tomato-like appearance. Other symptoms consist of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, joint swelling, and body aches. Experts suggest that tomato flu could stem from after-effects of chikungunya or dengue fever in children, or potentially be a variant of viral hand, foot, and mouth disease. Currently, there are no specific drugs available for its treatment.

The contagious nature of tomato flu is akin to other types of influenza, underscoring the importance of careful isolation of confirmed or suspected cases. It is recommended to follow isolation practices for 5–7 days from the onset of symptoms to curtail the spread of infection to other individuals. To prevent transmission, maintaining hygiene, sanitizing surroundings, and ensuring infected children do not share items with non-infected peers are crucial.

The virus has thus far impacted regions in India such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Odisha. To prevent further dissemination, precautions must be upheld, lest the virus extends its reach to other parts of the country. Despite the lack of antiviral drugs or vaccines for tomato flu, the most effective preventive measure remains the rigorous maintenance of hygiene and sanitation practices.

Reference: Chavda VP, Patel K, Apostolopoulos V. Tomato flu outbreak in India. Lancet Respir Med. 2023 Jan;11(1):e1-e2

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