The emergence of a new and rare viral infection in children in India has health officials concerned. On top of COVID, monkeypox, and an impending “twindemic” surge of COVID and what looks like an aggressive strain of influenza, parents now have to ask if the “tomato flu” is something to worry about.
So what is tomato flu? This rare infection, also known as tomato fever, has struck 82 children younger than 5 in India. The virus gets its name from the “eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato,” according to an article published in British medical journal Lancet.
In the early stages, these blisters can look like monkeypox on younger patients. Aside from the namesake blisters, symptoms include high fever, rashes, and intense joint pain, and secondary symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Other experts believe that the tomato flu is a new variant of hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common illness for children under the age of 5. Like hand, foot, and mouth disease, the illness seems to spread quickly through physical contact, which is why younger kids tend to be ideal carriers for the virus.
“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,” the authors of the Lancet piece wrote.
The good news (so to speak) is that as of now, this new tomato flu does not seem to be life-threatening. Of the 82 cases reported, there are still 82 children alive. The bad news is that it is uncomfortable and highly contagious. “The coxsackievirus is worldwide and infectious—and can easily spread,” Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo New York, told Prevention.
As for treatment of tomato flu? Experts say there is no specific drug or treatment to combat the virus, and that the main form of treatment is rest and OTC fever-reducing medications for aches and pains.
To avoid the spread of tomato flu (or any illness), you know the drill. Wash your hands. Mask up. Isolate if you or a family member feel sick.
Next, read up on our favorite all-natural cough and cold products for kids: