Fears grow over tomato flu outbreak as health officials give first warning over symptoms

FEARS are growing over the outbreak of tomato flu, as more children test positive for the illness.

It has prompted health officials in India to issue their first warning to parents – along with prevention guidance.

The illness has so far been detected in more than 100 children across three states in India


The illness has so far been detected in more than 100 children across three states in IndiaCredit: Shutterstock

Doctors say that its symptoms crossover with many other diseases, including flu and Covid.

It’s been branded tomato flu due to the painful red blisters that erupt on a patient’s body.

More than 100 children across the country have been infected since the first case was noted on May 6, in Kerala.

Some 82 children aged under five have been reported in the southern state.

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Now a further 26 cases have been reported in children as old as nine, in the state of Odisha, local media reported, and Tamil Nadu and Haryana are also understood to have cases.

The Indian Health Ministry has reminded people that the virus is non-life threatening.

However, in light of further cases being detected, they have issued testing and prevention guidelines to all states.

They have also urged parents to be extra vigilant when it comes to checking their kids, the Times of India reported.

Guidance from health officials states: “Tell your child not to hug or touch children having fever or rash symptoms. You should encourage your children to stop thumb or finger sucking habits.

“Encourage the child to use a handkerchief in case of running nose or coughing.”

A recent study, published in the Lancet, said the best solution for preventing transmission was hand hygiene and stopping children from sharing food, clothes and toys.

The medics stated: “Given the similarities to hand, foot, and mouth disease, 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.”

Parents need to be on the lookout for a range of symptoms.

The symptoms they described were:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of joints
  • Body aches
  • Rash (blisters)

Describing the rash seen in kids, they said: “Tomato flu gained its name on the basis of the eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato.”

They compared the blisters of the rash to those of monkeypox in children.

The feverish symptoms are similar to dengue and chikungunya, which are both spread by mosquitoes in other parts of the world, including Asia.

In fact, tomato flu could be an “after-effect” of these two viruses, medics reported.

But interestingly, health experts in India believe the infection is a new variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, local media report, as it bears a striking similarity.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is common in kids across the globe, including in the UK and US.

It occurs mainly in kids but can occur in adults too.

At first it causes symptoms of a sore throat, high temperature and loss of appetite before mouth ulcers and a rash appear.

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Blisters tend to appear on the hands, feet and buttocks.

They added that isolation of cases was important to stop the bug spreading further than Kerala, the southern Indian state where it was first detected.

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