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‘Tomato Flu’ Is Affecting Some Parts of India. What Is It?

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May 13, 2022

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Image Credit: Zee5

Even as the specter of Covid19 continues to hang in the air, a rare new, viral disease has reared its head up in the southern state of Kerala — creating ripples of dread in nearby territories. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, both of which share borders with Kerala, are presently on alert against the pathogen.

Experts have termed the disease “tomato flu” — after the tomato-like red blisters that it creates on the bodies of infected individuals. As of May 11, 80 individuals — all from the Kollam district of Kerala — were infected by the virus. Since then, the infection has, reportedly, made its way into the state’s Neduvathur, Anchal, and Aryankavu districts too.

Reports, so far, note that people recovering from either dengue or chikungunya have been the most vulnerable to the infection. It’s also pertinent to note that, largely, the virus is impacting children.

According to NDTV, the observed symptoms of the disease are rashes and red blisters on the skin, body ache and swelling in the joints, lethargy, dehydration, and high fever — most of which do suggest similarities with the symptoms experienced by patients of dengue and chikungunya.


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Kerala Now Has 19 Cases of Zika Virus. How Is India Dealing With the Spread?


Experts, however, are yet to ascertain the cause of the infection. “The exact cause behind this [disease] is not yet known and health officials are still investigating the main causes… There is a debate if the disease is a viral fever or an aftereffect of chikungunya or dengue fever,” Dr. Balamurugan, a physician, told NDTV.

What we do know, though, is that the disease isn’t fatal yet; no casualties have been reported until now. It is, however, contagious. “If someone is infected with this flu, they need to be kept in isolation as this could spread rapidly from one person to another,” Dr. P. Aruna, the deputy director of health services at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, told The Indian Express, adding that the “flu is a self-limiting one [which resolves on its own] and there is no specific drug for this.”

But the flu has nothing to do with the pandemic. As we continue to recover from the havoc — emotional and otherwise — that the recent global health crisis wreaked on us, K. Sudhakar, Karnataka’s health minister reassured people: “Though some symptoms are similar to Covid19, the tomato flu has nothing to do with Covid19.”

In the meantime, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are screening travelers from Kerala, in a bid to contain the infection. No travel embargos have been imposed, though. “Three teams comprising revenue inspectors, health inspectors, and police have been deployed on a shift basis. They will note down if someone has fever and rashes,” Dr. Aruna noted.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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