New Virus In India What is Tomato Flu?
Just as the world is dealing with the emergence of new variants and waves of COVID-19, a novel infection known as tomato flu, or tomato fever, has been identified in the Kerala province of India. Tomato flu was initially detected in the Kollam district of Kerala on May 6, 2022. Other affected areas in the Kerala province include the districts of Anchal, Aryankavu, and Neduvathur. A recent correspondence by Chavda et al. (2022) reports that although the infection is currently in an endemic state, the virus has already been reported in the provinces of Tamil Nadu and Odisha outside of Kerala.
So far, the infection has been observed to primarily affect children and cause non-fatal disease. According to Chavda et al. (2022), as of July 26, tomato flu has been detected in more than 82 children younger than 5 years old by the local government hospitals in Kerala. Moreover, the Regional Medical Research Centre in Bhubaneswar has reported that 26 children of 1 to 9 years were infected with the virus in Odisha. Read along to find out more about the tomato flu, its potential causes, transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
What causes tomato flu?
While the clinical presentation of tomato flu may be similar to other viral infections such as COVID-19, the tomato flu virus is not linked to SARS-CoV-2. Although further research is required to identify the tomato virus, Chavda et al. (2022) reports that the first estimations suggest that it might be a novel version of the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), which is caused by viruses of the Enterovirus family and known to commonly affect young children and immunocompromised adults. On the other hand, the researchers have suggested that tomato flu could also be an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever in children instead of a new viral infection. Therefore, the name “tomato flu” may be a misnomer for the infection.
How does tomato flu transmit?
Further research is required to determine the exact transmission routes of the tomato flu. However, it is estimated that similar to other viral infections, including those with potential links to tomato flu such as chikungunya, dengue fever, or hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), the tomato flu virus is most likely transmitted through close contact. This may involve close contact with contaminated surfaces, objects, or people, along with their respiratory droplets or feces.
What are the signs and symptoms of tomato flu?
The tomato flu virus has been named based on the occurrence of rashes throughout the body of the infected person. According to Chavda et al. (2022), the rashes caused by tomato flu usually develop into red and painful blisters and enlarge into the size of a tomato. Moreover, the researchers note that children with tomato flu present some symptoms similar to that of chikungunya, including fever, rashes, and joint pains. Finally, the children infected with the tomato flu virus have been observed to develop symptoms similar to that of dengue fever, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, joint swelling, and body pains, along with some influenza-like symptoms.
Does tomato flu only affect children?
According to Chavda et al. (2022), much like the case with other viral infections, young children are at higher risk of exposure to the tomato flu virus. Further, through the use of nappies, touching contaminated surfaces, as well as putting things into their mouths, young children are more likely to get infected with the tomato flu virus. As of now, the virus has only been observed in young children. However, noting the similarities of the tomato flu with other viral infections such as hand, foot, and mouth disease, Chavda et al. (2022) argues that unless the transmission of the tomato flu virus in India is effectively controlled and prevented, the virus could also transmit to adults and lead to more serious consequences.
How is tomato flu diagnosed?
There is currently no specific diagnostic test that enables the detection of the tomato flu virus. Therefore, in children with the symptoms described above, the diagnosis of tomato flu involves the use of molecular and serological tests for the detection of other viral infections with similar clinical presentations such as dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, and herpes. If the patient tests negative for such infections, the contraction of the tomato flu virus is confirmed.
Which treatment options are available for tomato flu?
Tomato flu has been observed to be a self-limiting illness that usually goes away on its own. Although vaccination and viral treatment have been proven to be highly efficient for the treatment of viral infections, particularly in children, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying medical conditions, there is currently no specific vaccine or antiviral therapeutics available for the treatment and prevention of tomato flu infections. Still, as tomato flu is considered to be similar to other viral infections such as chikungunya, dengue fever, and hand, foot, and mouth disease, isolating, staying hydrated, and using a hot water sponge for the relief of skin irritation and rashes can help manage the symptoms of people infected with the tomato flu virus. On the other hand, paracetamol could be useful to relieve other symptoms such as fever, body pains, and myalgia. Further research, surveillance, and sequence data are required for the determination of more effective treatment options.
How can you protect yourself against tomato flu?
As with many other viral infections, tomato flu is a highly infectious disease. Chavda et al. (2022) notes that isolation of those infected with tomato flu virus should be followed for 5–7 days from symptom onset to prevent the transmission of infection to other children or adults. Moreover, the researchers suggest that isolating infected cases, maintaining proper hygiene, sanitizing the surrounding necessities or environment, and preventing infected children from getting into contact with items shared with uninfected children is the best way to prevent onward transmission and protect yourself against the tomato flu virus.
Chavda, V. P., Patel, K., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2022). Tomato flu outbreak in India. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2213-2600(22)00300-9