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TOMATO FLU | Why is it called that? What is the origin of this contagious virus?

The tomato flua new Viral infection that has been detected in India, has captured all the attention of epidemiologists. Since it appeared last May in the state of Kerala (and after spreading to other areas of the country), more than 80 cases have been recorded. All of them, in children under five years of age.

As published in the British medical journal The Lancet, “the viral infection is in an endemic state and is considered not life-threatening; however, due to the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilant management is desirable to prevent further outbreaks.”

Although the symptoms of tomato flu are very similar to those of COVID-19, the virus is not related to SARS-CoV-2. But what is the origin of this new disease?

On the one hand, the expert authors of the research published in The Lancetbelieve that “it could be a secondary effect of the fever Chikungunya or dengue in children instead of a viral infection.”

It is a virus that was originally limited to Africa and caused the disease in primates, not humans. However, 70 years after its discovery, there have been cases on every inhabited continent. In America alone, more than a million infected since 2015. And also in Europe.

In the old continent, the first outbreak occurred in 2007. It is believed that a single infected person, who had been in India, gave rise to an outbreak in Italy. More than 200 people were infected in an area with a high presence of the tiger mosquito that transmitted the infection. And a deceased.

Tomato flu: Symptoms and treatment of the contagious virus that has appeared in India


“It’s not a flu”

And it’s not the only one. In 2017, another outbreak affected Italy with more than 500 people infected. It is highly probable that in the coming years the virus will end up establishing itself on the continent, given that its vector, the tiger mosquito, an invasive species that was first sighted in Barcelona in 2004, is becoming more widely distributed.

On the other hand, “it could also be a new variant of viral hand, foot and mouth disease, a common infectious disease that mainly affects children aged 1 to 5 years and immunocompromised adults.” It is the main theory of the doctor Antoni TrillaHead of Preventive Medicine at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona.

As the specialist explains, tomato flu “is not a flu” and “has nothing to do with tomatoes”. This infection has received this name because its most characteristic symptom is blisters, reddish in color, which could reach a size similar to that of a tomato.

But although it has been baptized like this, this fruit (of great culinary importance) does not cause this disease. Trilla points out that it is “a form of presentation of the mouth-hand-foot disease, caused by the Coxsackie virus”.

The epidemiologist highlights that this viral infection occurs in children under 10 years of age and is “benign”. So far, the professor at the University of Barcelona emphasizes, “there are no cases in Spain.”

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a childhood infection

The hand-foot-and-mouth disease It is a mild and contagious viral infection that is quite frequent among the smallest (between 1 and 3 years). Its main symptom is the appearance of blisters in the mouth, the palms of the hands and the feet, hence its name. And those responsible for these characteristic vesicles are enteroviruses.

Getting vaccinated against chickenpox does not eliminate the chance of having shingles, but it does reduce the risk of developing it.


This disease, typically childhood and mild, we insist, is easily transmitted through direct contact via fecal-oral (faeces) and air (secretions from the nose, mouth or droplets that are released when coughing).

The pediatricians of Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) explain that “the virus remains in the feces, especially, or in the respiratory tract for several weeks after suffering from the disease.”

In addition, it can survive for a long time in objects handled and used with children, such as handkerchiefs, tables, sheets, towels… which makes transmission very easy.

What are the symptoms of tomato flu

In addition to the reddish blisters, the symptomatology of the tomato flu is:

  • Rashes.

  • High fever.

  • Severe pain in the joints.

  • Fatigue.

Tomato flu is a self-limited disease for which there is no specific drug to treat it.

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