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A new, highly contagious viral infection that has been dubbed “tomato flu” is spreading among children in India, the country’s health ministry said this week.
At least 82 children under the age of 5 had been infected by the end of July in the southern state of Kerala, after the first patient was identified there in May. Infections have now been reported in three other states, including 26 children between the ages of 1 and 9 in Odisha, the Times of India reported on Thursday.
The infection gets its name from the “rash of red, painful blisters all over the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato,” according to an article published Aug. 17 in the British medical journal Lancet. The blisters resemble those seen in young patients with monkeypox.
The illness, which appears to spread through close contact and is not considered life-threatening, could be a side effect of chikungunya or dengue fever rather than a viral infection, according to the article.
Tomato flu could also be a new variant of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which is common among children under the age of 5, the Lancet article said. He added that the new infection is a self-limited disease, which tends to resolve spontaneously without treatment, for which there is no specific drug available.
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Young children appear to be at higher risk due to diaper use, their tendency to touch dirty surfaces, and their propensity to put things in their mouths.
“Given similarities to hand, foot, and mouth disease, if the tomato flu outbreak in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission could have serious consequences by spreading to adults as well,” the authors of the Lancet article wrote. .
Its main symptoms include high fever, skin rashes, and severe joint pain, similar to those of chikungunya. Other symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms similar to a dengue infection.
Although tomato flu and covid-19 have similar symptoms, the virus that causes the new illness is not related to the coronavirus, the Lancet article said. Tomato flu is diagnosed after tests have ruled out dengue, chikungunya, Zika, chicken pox and herpes.