An outbreak of a new viral infection called tomato flu that was first detected in children in the southern Indian state of Kerala in May has spread to two other states.
According to a Lancet Respiratory Medicine article, 82 children under the age of five had been diagnosed with the virus in Kerala as of July 26.
Cases have now been reported in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu and Odisha in the east, where children as young as nine have been infected, although the virus usually affects children under the age of five.
Scientists are still trying to identify exactly what this virus is. It has become known as tomato flu because of the painful red blisters it produces on the body, and it is highly contagious. Children are especially vulnerable because it is easily spread through close contact, such as through diapers, touching dirty surfaces, or putting things in their mouths.
“The rare viral infection is endemic and is not considered life-threatening; however, due to the terrible experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, vigilant management is desirable to prevent further outbreaks,” the Lancet article said.
Doctors say diagnosing tomato flu is difficult because its symptoms are very similar to those of Covid, chikungunya and dengue. The latter two are common in India during the rainy season and are spread by mosquitoes. Chikungunya is particularly widespread in Kerala.
The Lancet article says tomato flu could be an after-effect of chikungunya or dengue fever in children rather than a viral infection.
He adds: “The virus could also be a new variant of viral hand, foot and mouth disease, a common infectious disease that mainly targets children aged one to five and immunocompromised adults, and some case studies until and all have shown the mouth, feet and hands. disease in immunocompetent adults.”
Dr Suneela Garg, a senior health official in the Delhi government, said: “I agree that chikingunya and dengue can leave children vulnerable to tomato flu because their immune systems are weaker. Not yet we have no case in Delhi and I am sure it will not become a problem.”
The spread of tomato flu comes as India has seen a steady rise in Covid cases in recent weeks, along with swine flu cases.
Professor Dileep Mavalankar of the Gandhinagar Institute of Public Health said: “Swine flu had declined during Covid but is now on the rise again in big cities. But because the test is expensive, few people get tested tests, so the numbers are unclear.”
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