What You Need To Know About The 'Tomato Flu' Virus

Doctors in India are trying to figure out what's causing the tomato-sized blisters among children under 5 years of age. According to a recent letter in The Lancet, tomato flu was first discovered in Kerala, India, on May 6, and doctors have reported 82 cases as of July 26. Symptoms of the tomato flu are similar to COVID-19, but this flu virus is not a new variant. After testing the children for dengue, chikungunya, zika, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes, the doctors diagnosed them as having the tomato flu.

The Lancet suggests that the tomato flu might be a variant of chikungunya because the high fever, painful joints, and rash are similar symptoms. Children have also reported nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which are symptoms of dengue fever. Tomato flu gets its name from the red blisters that form, though the rash can resemble monkeypox.

Only three regions in India have reported cases of tomato flu, but The Lancet said it needs to be controlled so it doesn't spread to adults. Thus far, this flu is rare and isn't fatal. According to Healthline, the tomato flu isn't a cause for concern.

Is the 'tomato flu' just hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The Lancet suggested that tomato flu might be a variant of hand, foot, and mouth disease. According to a recent letter in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, two children had vacationed in Kerala for a month and played with a child who had recovered from tomato flu. They developed rashes on their hands and legs a week after they had returned. Doctors took PCR tests from the lesions and found coxsackie A16, which is a virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand, foot, and mouth disease is very contagious and spreads through fluids of the nose and mouth. It also can spread by coming into contact with the fluid from blisters or the feces of an infected person. Therefore, changing the diapers of a sick child could spread the infection. Although coxsackie A16 is the most common virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease, other variants of the enterovirus family can cause the disease. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is not related to the foot and mouth disease often found in cattle.

According to The Conversation, COVID-19 created unusual patterns for viruses, such as a winter flu in the summer of 2020 and a hepatitis outbreak in 2021. Monkeypox had mostly been limited to Africa during previous outbreaks. The large, tomato-sized blisters seen in this variation of hand, foot, and mouth disease aren't typical of previous cases.