What to Know About 'Tomato Flu,' an Infectious Virus That Affects Children

Tomato Flu
Medical experts said "Tomato Flu" may be a variant of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, which normally affects children under 5.Getty

Medical experts are recommending "vigilance" for the so-called "tomato flu."

Medical experts are calling for vigilance in monitoring a new virus dubbed "tomato flu," just as a fourth variant of COVID-19 looms and monkeypox continues to spread.

Known as “tomato flu" or "tomato fever," the highly contagious virus was first identified in India on May 6, according to a recently released study by the Lancet Respiratory Medicine Journal. It has thus far infected 82 children under the age of 5.

Though it is not life-threatening, the study authors urged caution in dealing with the virus "because of the dreadful experience of the COVID-19 pandemic" and said "vigilant management is desirable to prevent further outbreaks."

The malady got its name for red blisters that emerge on the body. They can gradually grow to the size of tomato, the journal said. The lesions can be very sore and can cause extreme joint pain.

The virus may be a variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, a common affliction in children under 5 caused by Coxsackie viruses that are transmitted by contact with feces, contaminated objects and exposure to bodily fluids.

Young children are most affected because of their tendency to put things in their mouths.

“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 study said.

Besides blisters, symptoms include fever, fatigue, vomiting, dehydration and other flu-like manifestations, the study said. 

Treatment is largely the same as for influenza — bed-rest and large quantities of fluids to prevent dehydration. Patients are usually isolated for five to seven days, the study said.

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