Flu prevention could save between three and five million cases of severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths every year worldwide.
That's without counting the impact of a pandemic influenza like the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, the 1968 Hong Kong flu, and emerging or new strains.
The CDC in the U. S. estimates that between 5% and 20% of the population will become infected with influenza every year, and 225,000 will need hospitalization (Center for Disease Control, 2006).
In the UK, approximately six million working days are lost every year due to diagnosed influenza (Solvay, 2007).
In the U. S., the direct and indirect costs of influenza is estimated to be a total of $71 billion to $167 billion dollars annually (World Health Organization, 2003).
Can green tea reduce the risk of the flu?
An important group of people who need flu prevention are the elderly, since more than 90% of the deaths related to influenza occur in those over age 65 (CDC, 2006).
A recent study measured the effectiveness of gargling with green tea with patients living together in a nursing home.
Researchers in Japan measured the rate of influenza infection in two matched groups of nursing home residents, one gargling three times daily with green tea extract, and one gargling three times daily without green tea extract.
All residents received influenza immunization prior to the gargling experiment.
Green tea shows 87% fewer cases of flu infection*
During the three month study period (January-March), many residents became infected with the flu in spite of the flu vaccination.
*However, the incidence of flu infection was 87% less in the group gargling with green tea than in the group gargling without green tea.
This was a significant difference showing that gargling with green tea extract reduced the rate of flu infection by 87% in a group of elderly people living together in the same nursing home (Yamada H, Gargling with tea catechin extracts for the prevention of influenza infection in elderly nursing home residents: a prospective clinical study, Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine, September 2006).
This research on using a green tea gargle for flu prevention is still considered preliminary.
Daily habits for risk reduction
Everyone should take all appropriate precautions to prevent the flu. While some people cannot take flu shots, there are many groups that have had very successful results with that procedure.
Also, reasonable self-care is the most basic way to avoid most infections.
Influenza transmission occurs when influenza viruses are spread in the air, or by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching an infected surface.
Try to avoid contact, wash your hands frequently, and practice healthy habits to keep your own immune system strong.
Home remedies for the flu include not only gargling with green tea, but also maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids, managing stress through appropriate exercise, rest, and not smoking as it makes flu symptoms worse (American Lung Association).
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones.
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