The Health Ministry has issued an advisory to states and union territories on the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), also known as Tomato Flu. These advisory states that though tomato flu is a viral infection, it is in no way linked to other similar infections like SARS-CoV-2, monkeypox, dengue and/or chikanguniya.
The ministry advisory further stated that tomato flu or HFMD is a self-limiting disease and there is no particular drug for treating it. The advisory furthermore read, “The disease will be best described as a clinical variant of the viral hand, foot and mouth disease, a common infectious disease targeting mostly young children aged 1-10 years and immune compromised adults, and sometimes exposed immune component adults.”
Tomato flu symptoms
The disease is named tomato flu as its main symptom is red blisters that look akin to tomatoes when enlarged. Tomato flu’s primary symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, skin rashes, intense joint pain and dehydration. Other symptoms are nausea, diarrhoea, dehydration and common influenza-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, health experts have called tomato flu a misleading name for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, IMA member in Kochi told India Today, “The illness is commonly caused by the Coxsackie virus which results in small 4-6 mm red spots on the skin that later become bubbles with fluid inside. The skin lesions can appear on the hands, feet and buttocks. It spreads by contact between young children and is self-limiting, requiring only supportive treatment. It has no connection with tomatoes.”
Paediatric intensivist at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Dr Dhiren Gupta also weighed in and said that people are still recovering from COVID-19 and are sensitive to new endemics. Dr Gupta noted, “The community is just recovering from COVID-19 and is therefore very sensitive and receptive to new endemics. Also, this type of news creates panic.”
Treatment for tomato flu
In case of tomato flu, treatment is similar to other viral infections and includes isolation, rest, consuming plenty of fluids and hot water sponge for relief from irritation and rashes. Patient is advised to stay in isolation for 5-7 days from onset of any symptoms to prevent spread of infection.
The health ministry advisory noted, “Supportive therapy of paracetamol for fever and body ache and other symptomatic treatments are required.”
Tomato Flu precautions
The Centre also mentioned that proper hygiene and sanitisation of surrounding necessities and environment is important for preventing tomato flu. Infected children are advised to not share food, clothes, toys or other items with non-infected children.
Monkeypox is defined as a viral zoonosis or virus transmitted to humans via animals with symptoms akin to smallpox or less severe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), key monkeypox symptoms are fever, rashes and swollen lymph nodes. These may lead to several medical complications in some cases.
Tomato Flu vs Monkeypox
While there is no specific drug or vaccine for treating HFMD or tomato flu, newer vaccines have been developed of which one has even been approved for the treatment of monkeypox. As per WHO, an antiviral agent originally developed for smallpox has been licensed for treating monkeypox.
In case of monkeypox, contacts have to be observed at least daily for any symptoms or signs of the disease for 21 days from the last contact with a patient or contaminated material during the infection. On the other hand, isolation of 5-7 days is good enough in case of tomato flu or HFMD.
A lab test is significant to either ascertain or rule out disease in both monkeypox and tomato flu if fever is reported.
(With inputs from agencies, India Today)
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