Outbreak of mysterious virus in India
The Indian government has issued an advisory to all states amid the spread of a new type of influenza. Predominantly affecting minors, the viral disease results in the formation of red blisters that look like tomatoes – hence the condition’s name, tomato flu.
According to a statement released by India’s Health Ministry on Tuesday, more than 82 cases involving children under five have been reported, with the disease prevalent in the country’s southern states. The first case of the flu was reported in Kerala state on May 6.
Although scientists believe the new flu to be a type of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), they have so far been unable to identify the exact nature of the pathogen.
However, the authorities were quick to assure the public that the new virus is not related to Covid-19 or monkeypox.
Symptoms of the illness can be mistaken for those of other viral infections, especially in the early stages, officials have warned. Children who have contracted the disease usually develop a fever, loss of appetite, sore throat, sores in the mouth and a skin rash, mostly confined to the hands and feet.
If tomato flu is suspected, a child should be placed in quarantine for up to a week to prevent the spread of the virus, the Health Ministry’s advisory recommends.
While there are no disease-specific medications for treatment of the infection at present, it is said to be relatively benign, with symptoms resolving on their own within a few days. Officials advise patients to take paracetamol to alleviate fever and body ache, drink plenty of fluids, and rest. Hot water sponges can also be applied to the rash to relieve irritation, the advisory said.
Indian authorities have noted that throat and nose swabs should be taken if tomato flu is suspected, with the samples tested to rule out other infectious diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, zika virus, varicella-zoster virus, and herpes.