October 7, 2009
There is a series of well conceived online games that help to expose and to understand concepts about the flu and other diseases. Find out what some of them have to add on
The Great Flu
With several resources that include instructive videos and relevant and realistic information about the Influenza, the game The Great Fludeveloped by the Virology Department of the Medical Center of Erasmus MC, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, is very good.
You are part of the committee of pandemic management and you have 2 billions Euros to invest on solutions to fight against a new upcoming flu variant.
There are several difficulty levels presented by the virulence of such chosen Influenza, and there are many solutions that might be taken in consideration: spread the word to the population, establish a monitoring system, improve the health system of a certain region, finance the construction of centers and creating research groups that will afterwards develop immunizations, store vaccines and antiviral agents among others.
Warnings displayed on the right-menu bring news about immunizations development, the population’s reaction, government’s responses to the decisions taken and other realistic messages.
It was build in a very well planned manner, as one of the most effective keys to guarantee the victory over the virus in this game is to invest in education and to develop centers and research teams, as well as to implement monitoring systems. All of this has to be done prior to the outbreak of the flu.
It is a good game to teach preventive measures on the combat against the flu in a global range and also to show OMS’ role along the monitoring and planning against the flu. One of the most important lessons is the efficiency of investing, to a greater extent, on prevention before the epidemic rather than struggling against the virus after its spread out and many social sectors of the country quit working (on the game, complaints, attacks to laboratories, economic issues and more).
Another game, Sneeze exhibits a more physiological side of the flu. You are a virus that infects humans and need to spread as much as you can through the sneeze of sick people. Each infected person wanders around for a while and sneezes. To increase your chances of success, you need to infect people that are walking around, giving priority to children, who aren’t immune to the virus and get into contact with several people, spreading the flu more quickly.
It is great to show the necessity of covering your sneeze and cough using a handkerchief, as well as the importance of avoiding public places while being sick.
At Killer Flu, you are a variation of Influenza whose purpose is to infect and kill the highest number of people during the flu season. The game illustrates very well the flu aspects such as its transmissions in crowded places: schools, airports, offices. In order to be transmitted, you need to lead someone infected to one of these places, within 5 days on which the person is susceptible. After that, the person will develop immunity against you and will no longer be able to infect. The airports help you to spread to new regions of the map.
There are three types of flu to play: seasonal, which emerges annually, with which you need to spin the mutations roulette and acquire new types of Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase, and those differ from the ones from last season, in order to avoid the previous immunity. The flu season quickly ends and people spread it for a short term; the rearranged, a mixture of human and avian virus that can circulate quicker and a lot longer. Besides not having to spin the HA and NA roulette because there is no previous immunity; and the H5N1 that passes from wild birds to domestic birds and can infect humans. Different from the current situation, where the avian H5N1 is not transmitted in an efficient way among humans, in the game it is performed easily.
In a well informative manner and, unlike of what the name of the game suggests, it is quite hard to infect more than 50% of the population and win. Just like the flu in the real world, the virus faces problems like the immunity to be dispersed.
At last, one of the most complete games: Pademic 2. We are again on the side of the pathogenic agents and this time the player can choose the type of microorganism he wishes to be. Each one, the virus, bacteria or eukaryotic parasite, has its vantages and disadvantages.
Virus evolve more quickly but are though detected by shots, bacteria that can be resistant to antibiotics and parasites are unnoticed, not causing the combat precautions measures by governments. As people are infected, the player gets evolutionary points that can be invested in characteristics that will help him to spread.
Leaving aside the idea of winning and loosing symptoms easily, something that does not occur in real world diseases, the game has very trusted principles. Symptoms that facilitate transmission such as cough, sneeze and diarrhea, increase the chances of patients to be noticed and regions take preventive measurements, such as closing ports and airports or the development of immunizations.
The list of symptoms and its consequences is quite complete, and gives a very good idea of the reason why some diseases are more dangerous than others.