Tomato flu a self-limiting illness: Centre

Virus not related to SARS-CoV-2, monkeypox, dengue and chikungunya, it tells in advisory to States

August 23, 2022 09:55 pm | Updated 09:55 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health. File

Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health. File | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

Tomato flu is a clinical variant of the hand, foot, and mouth disease, a common viral infection affecting mostly children aged one to 10 years, immune-compromised adults, and sometimes exposed, immune-competent adults. It is a self-limiting illness and no specific drug exists for its treatment, the Union Health Ministry said in an advisory to the States.

It added that although tomato flu had symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body ache and rashes on the skin, which are similar to that of other viral infections, the virus that causes it is not at all related to SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, monkeypox, dengue and chikungunya.

 “In fact, recent reports have suggested it to be Coxsackie A 17 that belongs to the group of enteroviruses,” the Ministry said.

The Ministry recommended that since there is no antiviral drugs or vaccines available for the treatment or prevention of tomato flu so far, further follow-up and monitoring for serious outcomes and sequelae are needed to better understand the need for potential treatments.

The best solution for prevention is maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitisation of the surrounding necessities and environment as well as preventing the infected child from sharing toys, clothes, food, or other items with non-infected children, the Ministry said.

It also advised isolation for five to seven days from the onset of any symptom to prevent the spread of infection to other children or adults. 

The disease is characterised by fever, sores in the mouth, and skin rash. It begins with mild fever, poor appetite, malaise, and often a sore throat. One or two days after the fever begins, small red spots appear which change to blisters and then to ulcers.

The sores are usually located on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, palms and soles.

The Ministry said that in children with these symptoms, molecular and serological tests are done for diagnosis of dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes, and once these viral infections are ruled out, a diagnosis of tomato flu is considered. 

It said that the treatment is similar to that of other viral infections, which included isolation, rest, plenty of fluids and hot water sponge for relief of irritation and rashes. Supportive therapy of paracetamol for fever and body ache and other symptomatic treatments may be required, it added. 

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