What is Tomato Flu Virus: Understanding Its Origins, Symptoms, Treatment and Impact

The Tomato Flu virus, identified in India in 2022, has sparked interest and concern in the medical community due to its peculiar symptoms and rapid spread among children. This comprehensive overview aims to demystify the condition, shedding light on its symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures. As we delve into the characteristics of this disease, it’s clear that understanding and managing it requires concerted efforts from healthcare professionals and caregivers alike. Here’s what you need to know.

Origin and Spread

  • Discovery: The virus, named for its distinctive symptom of painful, bright red blisters that can grow to the size of a tomato, was first identified in the Indian state of Kerala in May 2022​​.
  • Spread Across India: Following its emergence in Kerala, cases were reported in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Haryana, and Punjab. Most cases were in children under 5, but it was also found in older children, indicating a wider age range susceptibility​​.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

  • Symptoms Resembling Other Diseases: The Tomato Flu shows symptoms similar to COVID-19, like fever and fatigue, and also resembles chikungunya and dengue, with high fever, rashes, and joint pain​​.
  • Misidentification and Clarification: Initially thought to be a new virus, further studies revealed it to be a variant of the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), caused by the coxsackievirus A16, a member of the enterovirus family​​.

Characteristics and Comparisons

  • HFMD Connection: The Tomato Flu is an atypical presentation of HFMD. HFMD typically presents with localized eruptions, fever, and greyish vesicles, but the Tomato Flu variant is characterized by red, painful blisters across the body​​.
  • Variants and Severity: While HFMD is usually mild and caused by various enterovirus serotypes, the Tomato Flu variant demonstrates the evolving nature and clinical presentation of the disease​​.

Treatment and Prevention

  • Treatment Approach: The treatment involves hydration, rest, and symptomatic relief measures like hot water sponge baths for rashes, and fever-reducing medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen​​.
  • Contagious Nature and Isolation: The virus is highly contagious, and a 5-7 day isolation period is recommended. Preventive measures include hand washing and avoiding the sharing of clothes, food, or toys​​.
  • Spread through Contact: It can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, soiled diapers, or when children put contaminated items in their mouths​​.
  • Environmental Measures: Preventive strategies include quick isolation of infected individuals, proper hand hygiene, and environmental disinfection of surfaces, toys, and clothes​​.


While Tomato Flu has garnered attention due to its unique presentation and symptoms, it’s essentially an atypical manifestation of HFMD. This revelation underscores the evolving nature of viral diseases and the importance of ongoing research to identify and understand new variants. Careful clinical management, informed by the latest scientific findings, is key to treating affected individuals, particularly children who are most vulnerable. Equally important are robust preventive measures, including public awareness and hygiene practices, to control its spread and mitigate its impact. The global health community’s response to the Tomato Flu serves as a reminder of the ever-present need to be vigilant against emerging infectious diseases.

Team ONH
Team ONH
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