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What is the “tomato flu” that affects children in India (and why is it called that)

In India there seems to be one new flu form that it would strike especially i children under the age of 5: it has been called “tomato flu” or “tomato fever” and has been reported by the health authorities of the state of Kerala, in southern India. The alleged new disease, so called because it causes, among other symptoms, red rash filled with fluid that grow to the size of a tomatowas described in an article signed by researchers from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Technology of the University of Gujarat, India and the Institute for Health and Sport, of the University of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia and published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The authors state that the disease is endemic in Kerala e it is not considered life-threatening of those who are affected, but they recommend attention from the health authorities in order not to spread it to other territories. No further evidence is available on its origins, but it could berather than a new virus, a complication of others viral diseases. Indeed, an article published in the journal The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal reports the clinical case of two British children who returned from Kerala who developed the typical symptoms of this flu, which however turned out to be the hand-mouth-foot diseaseviral exanthematous disease which affects young children very frequently and that generally it resolves itself.

The spread and the symptoms

As reported in the article published in the journal of the Lancet group, the tomato flu was first identified in Kerala on May 6, 2022 and, as of July 26, 2022, more than 82 children under the age of 5 have been reported by local hospitals with this infections. To date, apart from the state of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Orissa, no other region of India has been affected by the virus, but the Kerala Department of Health is taking precautionary measures to monitor the spread of the viral infection and prevent its spread. The disease has caused concern why manifests itself in a similar way to COVID-19: those affected by the tomato flu, in fact, have symptoms such as high fever, severe pain in the joints and skin rashes, which, in addition to being present in some cases of individuals affected by Sars-cov-2 infection, also resemble those observed in the case of monkeypox, especially in young people. Despite this, the disease it seems rather be related to viral diseases transmitted by infected mosquitoes such as chikungunya and dengue: other symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, joint swelling, muscle aches and flu-like symptomsvery similar to those that appear in the case of dengue.

The causes and treatments

In fact, the article reports, tomato flu isn’t necessarily a disease caused by a new virusbut it could be the manifestation of one typical complication of children of chikungunya or dengue, or one new variant of hand-mouth-foot diseasea viral infection that both children between the ages of 1 and 5 and immunocompromised adults can contract very easily, but which it usually has mild symptoms and resolves on its own. In fact, the clinical case published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (the only study so far in which specific tests have been performed on children with this flu) reports the experience of two brothers (a 13 month old girl and a 5 year old boy) just returned to the UK from Kerala, where they had played with another child who, according to the mother, had just had the tomato flu. A week later, the babies developed a rash consisting of small, fluid-filled blisters, with no other symptoms. By analyzing samples from the children, researchers at the University of Leicester found that they had been infected with a Coxsackie viruspathogen responsible for hand-mouth-foot disease.

Although there are unclear points on this matter, as the tomato influence occurs in a similar way to chikungunya, dengue and hand-mouth-foot disease, the Lancet article also reads. its treatment is similar to that reserved for these diseases: there are no specific drugsbut isolation, rest, plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and warm water to relieve irritation and rashes are recommended, as well as supportive therapies with medications to lower fever and lessen symptoms such as muscle aches.

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