Another Viraling Flu?

There’s now another flu viraling over the internet that is slowly impacting the states in India. An article published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine on July 26 reported that 82 children in Kerala younger than five had tested positive for the virus. However, new cases have been reported in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu and in the eastern state of Odisha, where children as old as nine have been infected. Researchers have yet to determine the nature of this virus. The painful red blisters it causes on the body have earned it the nickname “tomato flu,” which is highly contagious. The central government claims that the tomato flu is unrelated to dengue, chikungunya, monkeypox, and coronavirus.

What’s with the Tomato Flu?

According to a report that appeared last week in the British medical journal Lancet, the infection is named after the “eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato.” The blisters are similar to those seen in young monkeypox patients. The article suggests that the disease, which is contagious through close contact but rarely fatal, is still speculated that might be a secondary effect of chikungunya or dengue rather than a virus itself. Nonetheless, scientists are still conducting experiments on it and haven’t provided any conclusive data.

Till now, India has recorded over one hundred cases of tomato flu in four states: Haryana, Odisha, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Most cases occur in children aged 1 to 9 years old. Nonetheless, only the four states mentioned above are affected. There are currently no specific drugs for this disease, so it is treated with various combinations of chikungunya and dengue medications. However, the center’s advisory emphasized sanitation and proper hygiene as the most effective means of prevention. Children are especially susceptible because the disease is easily transmitted through close contacts, such as sharing diapers, touching unclean surfaces, or putting objects in their mouths. The Lancet article stated, “The rare viral infection is endemic and considered non-lethal; however, due to the terrible experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, vigilant management is necessary to prevent further outbreaks.”

The Lancet article suggested that tomato flu could also be a new variant of hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is common in children under five. It also stated that no specific medication is available for the new infection because it is a self-limiting illness that tends to go away without treatment. “Given the similarities to hand, foot, and mouth disease, if the outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission could lead to severe consequences by spreading to adults,” the authors of an article published in Lancet wrote. The doctors advise the patients to rest, drink a lot of fluids, and stay hydrated. However, the center’s advisory emphasized sanitation and proper hygiene as the most effective means of prevention.

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