Hong Kong Health Department advises public to drink Chinese herbal tea

Hong Kong's Health Department has advised the public to drink more Chinese herbal tea and soup to protect themselves against getting the flu, in the midst of worldwide concerns of a possible bird flu pandemic.

Some of the ingredients for making the five recommended herbal concoctions include ginger, mulberry leaves, mint and dried chrysanthemum.

The advice came as Hong Kong gears up preparations to guard against bird flu. Health experts have warned that a virulent bird flu virus strain, H5N1, could mutate into a form that can be easily transmitted between humans, possibly causing a global pandemic that could kill millions.

The territory has been extremely watchful for outbreaks of disease in mainland China since SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome _ crossed the border, killing nearly 300 people in the territory and ravaging its economy about two years ago.

China has recently reported three outbreaks among birds but no human deaths.

Last month, Hong Kong health authorities mobilized Chinese medicine practitioners in the fight against bird flu by distributing a guide to preventing and treating influenza with Chinese herbal medicines.

According to the pamphlets, the herbal drinks could help build up immunity and adjust the balance of "yin" (cold) and "yang" (hot) forces in the human body. People get sick when the forces get out of balance.

Hong Kong recorded the first known instances of human infection by H5N1 in 1997, when the virus infected 18 people and killed six of them in the territory. But the territory has so far been spared in the wave of infections that began in Asia in late 2003, reports the AP. I.L.

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