Updated: 2022, Sep 13

‘Tomato Flu’ Outbreak in India: Here’s a Detailed Guide

A new outbreak has officials concerned after it affected at least 100 children in India. A 'new virus' called tomato flu is a highly contagious viral infection.

Healthcare worldwide has received several hits and blows for quite some time, and India hasn’t been spared from this hit either. Recently, there’ve been several reported cases of Tomato flu in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Odisha, India.

‘Tomato Flu’ Outbreak in India: Here’s a Detailed Guide
Tomato flu: Indian health advisory for rare virus infecting children. Image/Shutterstock

There have been over 80 cases of tomato flu in Kerala since May 2022. Fortunately, these cases were mild, not fatal, or recorded deaths due to tomato flu.

Luckily, the health department responded early enough to contain its spread. That was possible because the world has been on high alert since the emergence of viral and infectious diseases.

1. What Is Tomato Flu?

Tomato flu is a mild yet highly infectious and viral flu that has so far spread amongst children in India. It’s also a self-limiting disease, meaning it has no known cure, and the signs and symptoms diminish on their own with time.

However, there’s still confusion on whether it’s a viral flu or the aftermath of the notorious Chikungunya and dengue fever which are different types of malaria.

According to The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: the Kerala tomato flu revealed Coxsackie A16 (CA16) strains and CA6, which cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. Hand, foot, and mouth disease have similar clinical symptoms and presentation to tomato flu.

Children under the age of five are the most susceptible to infection and are the highly infected group of people in India.

According to The Lancet article, India had a similar outbreak between 2006 and 2007, but it wasn’t much of a threat and neither did it receive media attention. The 2022 outbreak has been rampant, and the healthcare department in India is working tirelessly to restore normality in all affected districts. However, tracing contacts has proved challenging since India is highly populated. Thus, there’s a possible threat of Tomato flu spreading to other regions.

2. What Are the Symptoms of Tomato Flu?

Tomato flu got its name due to its unique and distinct characteristic of the presence of tomato-like blisters on the body. Tomato flu also has symptoms similar to Chikungunya and other viral flu.

Below are the common symptoms of tomato flu:

  • Red blisters resemble the shape of tomatoes.
  • Body fever.
  • General body fatigue.
  • Dehydration.
  • Rashes.
  • Pain in the joints.
  • Stomach pains.
  • In some cases, the patient experiences diarrhea.

There are possibilities that the virus may take longer to clear off the body’s system even after the symptoms have completely disappeared from the body. Hence, medical experts are yet to determine if an individual is still infectious after healing.

3. How Is Tomato Flu Spread?

Tomato flu spreads through close personal contact with infected persons or through touching contaminated surfaces or belongings of a sick person.

Therefore, caution and thorough hygiene are key when dealing with an infected person. Because tomato flu has all flu-like qualities, infected individuals should ensure they often sanitize and keep physical distance to curb the spread.

Infected children shouldn’t share their toys with other children. If your child is infected, it’s wise to keep them indoors, away from other children, to protect them from the risk of infection. However, you should offer moral support to your child and ensure that their mental health is’t affected negatively during the isolation period. Creating a safe space with no stigma is paramount to them feeling better.

Early childhood education centres should also stay updated on tomato flu to ensure children aren’t at risk of exposure under their care.

4. Who Can Get Tomato Flu Infection?

According to the letter by The Lancet, children under the age of five are at a higher risk of being infected with tomato flu because they often come into contact with dirty surfaces and put things directly in their mouths. Viral flu also thrives in the age group of five and below.

Also, immunocompromised adults could be infected if the spread becomes more rampant and gets out of hand.

5. Tomato Flu Treatment

Unfortunately, Tomato flu has no known cure yet. The disease practically heals on its own because it is a self-limiting disease.

Infected children should have warm baths and drink more fluids to avoid dehydration. An uptake in fruits full of Vitamin C is also an excellent way to boost immunity and help manage tomato flu.

6. Do We Have Tomato Flu Vaccines?

Vaccination and drug repurposing are the best ways to protect the masses from viral infections and flu. Unfortunately, there’s no available vaccine or medicine developed for tomato flu.

More research is underway, and as much as we hope the disease won’t get out of hand, we also hope that a vaccine will be available soon.

7. Tomato Flu Preventive Measures.

Tomato flu preventive measures are similar to COVID-19 Preventive protocols. Since the spread is rampant, precautions and protective measures are essential to curb its spread. India has revised and put more restrictions on travel. There are also improvements in border control guidelines to control the spread of the disease.

Some of the collective preventive measures include:

  • Isolation: It’s one of the most effective measures to take because the disease is highly contagious. Close contact of an infected person with other people could jeopardize their health too. The recommended period of isolation is 5 to 7 days from the day of diagnosis.
  • Sanitizing regularly: Individuals may not be aware if they’ve contaminated themselves; therefore, proper sanitization is critical to eliminate any pathogens you come into contact with unknowingly. Also, sanitization of sick people’s utensils and personal items is key to reducing the risk of contamination.
  • Closing borders of affected regions is also an excellent preventive measure to reduce the risk of mass spread beyond one geographical area.
    Other protective measures that governments can include in their plan to tame tomato flu are creating awareness and encouraging people who get infected to get professional help. The health department can also create a contact tracing app to help map the spread and how to get ahead of the problem.

When caring for a sick child, observe all the required safety and protective measures. That will not only keep you safe from infection but also keep other family members safe, thus lowering the chances of the spread.

FAQS

Q: How can you tell the difference between the tomato flu and COVID-19?

A: You can barely tell the difference; hence you can’t do self-diagnosis. It would be best if you got tested in a health facility to get accurate results and rule out doubts and uncertainties.

Q: Should I be worried about the tomato flu?

A: No, it would help if you didn’t worry because tomato flu is a mild disease. It’s also a self-limiting disease with rare fatality rates. Also, restrictions have been put in place to curb its further spread. However, you should be in charge of your health and well-being and take all preventive measures provided by health professionals to keep you safe.

Q: How do I get tested for tomato flu?

A: You can have a test done at any healthcare facility near you.

Q: Can I be vaccinated against the tomato flu?

A: Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine developed for tomato flu yet. Research is still underway to see if there are possibilities of developing a vaccine.

Is tomato flu fatal?

A: Tomato flu is mild and, so far, has had no fatality rates, but if not controlled, it could be a threat to those who have immunocompromised immunity.

Q: Is tomato flu curable?

A: Tomato flu is self-limiting, and has no known cure for tomato flu yet. Although, drug repurposing could help alleviate symptoms and manage joint pain.

Q: Who is at risk of tomato flu?

A: The disease has been prevalent in children, but that could change if it goes out of control. Therefore, children under five are at a greater risk of infection.

Q: What should I do if I have tomato flu symptoms?

A: If you have tomato flu symptoms, kindly visit the nearest healthcare facility to consult a professional for diagnosis and treatment plans. It’ll also be great if you isolate yourself to protect others around you and curb the spread. Please stay away from home remedies and get proper healthcare help.

Q: How can I protect myself?

A: You can protect yourself by first staying informed, avoiding disease hotspot areas, and being your brother’s keeper by keeping them in check.

Conclusion

Even though tomato flu doesn’t pose a fatal threat, it’s essential to keep yourself updated on the news about the disease to take preventive measures where you’re. At a crucial time in our lifetime regarding global health, we can’t be reluctant when we’ve had several global health threats.

Adults could be infected if the disease gets out of control, which could mean accelerated spread and more lockdowns. It certainly isn’t a good picture. So, protect others by protecting yourself first because, indeed, prevention is better than cure.

So far tomato flu outbreak is only in India, but there’s a need for other countries to take precautions and tighten their health response as well.

4 sources

[1] Lancet. (n.d.) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/
[2] Online first : The pediatric infectious disease journal. (2022, August  https://journals.lww.com/pidj/Fulltext/9900/
[3] Pitt, S. (2022, August 26). 'Tomato flu' outbreak in India – here's what it really is. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/tomato-flu-outbreak-in-india-heres-what-it-really-is-189413
[4] Tomato fever and COVID 19, a double hit in the Indian health system. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9274800/
Author
Facebook youtube pinterest Twitter linkedin

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Dr.Joel Fuhrman Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a family physician, NY Times best-selling author and nutritional researcher.

View All