Fears of a tomato flu outbreak are growing as more children test positive for the disease.
This has prompted Indian health officials to issue initial warnings to parents along with prevention guidance.
Doctors say the symptoms overlap with many other illnesses, including the flu and the novel coronavirus.
It is called tomato flu because it causes painful red blisters on the patient’s body.
More than 100 children have been infected across the country since the first case was confirmed in Kerala on May 6.
Southern states have reported 82 children under the age of five.
Twenty-six more cases have now been reported in children up to the age of nine in Odisha, reported by local media, and it is understood that there are also cases in Tamil Nadu and Haryana.
India’s health ministry has reminded people that the virus is not life-threatening.
However, in light of further cases being detected, they have issued testing and prevention guidelines to all states.
They also urged parents to take extra care when it comes to checking their children, according to the Times of India.
Guidance from health authorities states:
“Encourage your child to use a handkerchief if they have a runny nose or cough.”
According to a recent study published in The Lancet, the best solutions to prevent transmission are hand hygiene and keeping children from sharing food, clothing and toys.
“Given its similarities to hand-foot-and-mouth disease, if an outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, the contagion can spread to adults, with serious consequences,” medical officials said.
Parents should be aware of various symptoms.
The symptoms they described were:
- swollen joints
- body pain
- Rash (blister)
Regarding rashes seen in children, they said:
They compared rash blisters to monkeypox blisters in children.
The feverish symptoms are similar to dengue and chikungunya, both of which are spread by mosquitoes in other parts of the world, including Asia.
In fact, tomato flu may be a “sequence” of these two viruses, medical officials report.
Interestingly, however, Indian health experts believe the infection is a new variant of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, reports local media.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common in children around the world, including in the United Kingdom and the United States.
It occurs mainly in children, but it can also occur in adults.
At first, symptoms such as sore throat, high fever, and loss of appetite appear, followed by mouth sores and rashes.
Blisters easily appear on hands, feet and buttocks.
They added that it is important to isolate infected people to prevent the infection from spreading further than the South Indian state of Kerala, where it was first discovered.