200130 kerala coronavirus
Tomato Flu was first identified in Kollam, Kerala on May 6, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry has issued an advisory on 'Tomato Flu', also known as Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), to the states after more than 100 cases were reported from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Haryana.

Tomato Flu was first detected in Kollam district in Kerala on May 6, and as of July 26, over 80 children less than five years of age were infected by the disease, as per reports from local government hospitals.

This viral illness triggered an alert in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Additionally, 26 children (aged 1-9 years) have been reported as having the disease in Odisha by the Regional Medical Research Centre in Bhubaneswar. However, apart from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Odisha, no other state has reported Tomato Flu cases so far.

"The name Tomato Flu comes from the main symptom of this disease, i.e, tomato-shaped blisters on several body parts. The blisters start as red-coloured small blisters and resemble tomatoes when they enlarge. Primary symptoms observed in children with Tomato Flu are similar to those of other viral infections, which include fever, rashes and pain in joints. Rashes on skin can also lead to skin irritation," the Health Ministry said in the advisory.

It begins with mild fever, loss of 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 tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, palms and soles.

The ministry said that Tomato Flu is a self-limiting infectious disease as the signs and symptoms resolve after a few days.

It seems the disease is a clinical variant of the so-called HFMD that is common in school going children, the ministry said.

"Infants and young children are also prone to this infection through use of nappies, touching unclean surfaces as well as putting things directly into the mouth. HFMD occurs mainly in children under 10 years of age, but it can occur in adults too," the ministry said.

As per the ministry, the best way to prevent this disease is maintaining proper hygiene and sanitisation of the surrounding environment as well as preventing the infected child from sharing toys, clothes, food, or other items with other non-infected children.