(CTN News) – Health authorities in India have issued a health advisory after discovering more than 100 cases of a rare, new viral infection affecting young children.
In Kerala, where the first case was detected on May 6, tomato flu, so-called for the painful red blisters it produces, has been detected in 82 children under five.
Children as old as nine have been infected in neighboring Tamil Nadu state and Odisha in the east.
It is not a life-threatening virus, according to India’s health ministry, but it has issued testing and prevention guidelines to all states this week, urging parents to monitor their children closely for symptoms.
Viral tomato flu, particularly among young children aged under five, is highly contagious and spreads through close contact.
Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, swelling of joints, body aches, and blisters that look like tomatoes.
Scientists are still trying to determine the cause of the virus. According to an article published in the British medical journal The Lancet last week, although it displays some similar symptoms, it is not SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19].
It is more likely that the virus is an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever, two viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
A viral variant of hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common infectious disease that primarily affects children and adults with compromised immune systems, could also be the cause.
As viral infections are common in this age group, and tomato flu spreads through close contact, children are at an increased risk of exposure.
Using nappies, touching unclean surfaces, and putting things directly in their mouths also pose high risks.
If the outbreak is not controlled and transmission is not limited, older adults may be at risk.
“The similarity between tomato flu and hand, foot, and mouth disease suggests that if the outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission might lead to serious consequences for adults as well,” according to the Lancet article.
A self-limiting illness, tomato flu usually resolves spontaneously without treatment.
Following the onset of symptoms, health officials have urged people to isolate suspected cases for five to seven days to prevent the spread of the outbreak.
The Lancet article advised that the best way to prevent the disease is to maintain proper hygiene and sanitize the surrounding necessities and environment, as well as to avoid sharing toys, clothes, food, or other items with non-infected children.
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