Warning as new ‘tomato flu’ virus causing painful blisters infects 82 children

A NEW illness dubbed “tomato flu” poses a threat to young children.

Detected in 80 children in India, the virus causes a red rash and symptoms similar to other fever-causing bugs.

"Tomato flu" causes red and painful blisters that become as big as tomatoes. It is similar to monkeypox, experts say

“Tomato flu” causes red and painful blisters that become as big as tomatoes. It is similar to monkeypox, experts sayCredit: Shutterstock

Writing in the medical journal The Lancet, doctors said it was “very contagious” and fear it will spill into adults, too.

They said: “Tomato flu gained its name on the basis of the eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato.

“Rashes also appear on the skin with tomato flu that lead to skin irritation. 

“As with other viral infections, further symptoms include, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration, swelling of joints, body aches, and common influenza-like symptoms…”

They compared the blisters of the rash to those of monkeypox, and the feverish symptoms to dengue, chikungunya and hand, foot and mouth disease

In fact, they said it could be an “after-effect” of the latter three, rahter than its own bug.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what triggers the symptoms.

Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan claimed the infection is a new variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, local media report.

So far, health authorities have reported 82 cases between May and July of 2022, all of which have been under the age of five. 

But there is no evidence so far the illness is serious or life-threatening, and children have been treated with usual remedies – paracetamol, rest and plenty of fluids.

Regardless, experts said children should isolate for up to seven days from when their symptoms start to stop the virus spreading further. 

Tomato flu was first spotted in the Kollam district of Kerala, southern India, before spreading around the region.

Three of the 28 Indian states have been affected.

The Lancet paper said: “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. 

“Young children are also prone to this infection through use of nappies, touching unclean surfaces, as well as putting things directly into the mouth. 

“Given the similarities to hand, foot, and mouth disease, if the outbreak of tomato flu in children is not controlled and prevented, transmission might lead to serious consequences by spreading in adults as well.”

It comes after China sounded the alarm of Langya virus, a never-seen-before version of the Henipavirus family.

It has infected 35 people so far in two provinces in eastern China, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.