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Tomato flu: What we know so far about the viral infection spreading among children in India

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Aug 27, 2022 2:49 pm

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak, there is a new, highly contagious viral infection that has emerged from India.

While its health departments noted that the disease affecting children in their country is "non-life-threatening," they are now taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus to other parts of the region, according to the Lancet Respiratory Medicine Journal.

Here's what we know so far about the tomato flu:


The tomato flu first emerged in the Kollam district of Kerala—the 21st largest state by area in India on May 6.

The viral infection got its name from the emergence of red and painful blisters throughout the body. They are reported to resemble the ones that have contracted the monkeypox virus, but they slowly expand into the size of a tomato.

As of July 26, local government hospitals have reported that there are more than 82 children younger than five years old that have been infected by the virus. 

The other towns in Kerala such as Anchal, Aryankavu, and Neduvathur have also been affected, putting the neighboring states on high alert. But apart from Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Odisha, no other regions in India have been afflicted by the outbreak so far.

Similar to the COVID-19 virus, infected individuals show symptoms like fever, fatigue, and body aches. The Lancet article, however, noted that the two infectious diseases are not related.

The authors suggested that the tomato flu "could also be a new variant of the viral hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting mostly children aged one to five years and immunocompromised adults."

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and common influenza-like symptoms.


The researchers stated that like other types of influenza virus, tomato flu is "very contagious," so it is mandatory for the health workers of India to follow isolation of confirmed or suspected cases for five to seven days after the symptoms emerge. 

"Children are at increased risk of exposure to tomato flu as viral infections are common in this age group and spread is likely to be through close contact," the article read.

Such instances where children can be infected are when they use nappies, touch unclean surfaces, and put things directly into their mouths.

The authors also warned that if the virus is not controlled properly, "transmission might lead to serious consequences by spreading in adults as well."

The best solution to keep the tomato flu at bay is to have proper hygiene and to always disinfect areas and objects before touching them.