Influenza (Flu) Season Advice

The annual influenza (flu) season in South Africa started in April 2024, and there has been a steady rise in the number of cases across the country. This year there are three main strains of flu causing illness in South Africa, all of which are included in our current flu vaccine. We have also seen an increasing number of cases of flu on St Helena, which is not surprising given the regular movement of people to and from South Africa.

In most people, flu causes an unpleasant but fairly mild illness, with fever, cough, and headache. Some people may also get nausea and diarrhoea. Occasionally the illness can be more severe, causing pneumonia and severe breathing problems. In most cases there is no need to go to the hospital or to see a doctor, rest and simple treatments like paracetamol are enough, and you should recover within a few days.

Children usually get only a mild illness with flu, although those with other breathing problems (such as asthma) may become more severe and will require medical attention. For most children, treatment with suitable infant or child painkillers such as Calpol, along with rest and plenty of fluids, will be enough and there is usually no need to see a doctor.

Flu is spread through coughs and sneezes, but also from picking up the virus on your hands from contaminated surfaces. Hand washing or hand gels are important in preventing spread. The flu vaccine is also useful. It may not always stop you catching the virus, but will make the symptoms less severe if you do, especially for those who suffer from other lung problems. Many people have already taken up the offer to receive flu vaccine, but there are still some available.

If you would like to receive the vaccine, you can drop in at your local outpatient clinic during routine clinic hours. The public are encouraged to do this as soon as possible for the vaccine to be effective during the peak of the flu season.

28 May 2024

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470