Battling Swine Flu in cyberspace

Slightly bizarre news has been reported on the BBC Technology website today.

Swine flu is hitting the world pretty hard at the moment, but we seem to be doing well. Millions of doses of anti-viral treatments have been stockpiled and information about the illness is easy to find for the majority of people. However the experts at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Holland have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness of the illness in a slightly unorthodox manner; creating a video game.

The game called 'The Great Flu' is based on the threat of an emergence of a new strain of the flu virus and the concurrent threat that it poses to humanity. "The game is based on the need to increase public awareness to the threat posed by a pandemic and the measures in place to contain it," said Albert Osterhaus, head of virology at the Erasmus Medical Centre, one of the experts involved in creating the game.

Osterhaus goes on to say that the video game is not intended to substitute any information given by medical authorities, instead simply provide another avenue of information. Based online the game has a fairly simple design: stop the spread of flu. The more time passes within the game, the more the infection is spread, the more fatalities and the more nations are hit.

The player has various tools to try and halt the pandemic. For instance, early warning systems can be established and citizens warned about the risks. Also available are face masks and anti-viral drugs, as well as improved research centres and medical services. The player is also given the option to close schools and airports, suspend businesses and quarantine infected members of the population.

To add further strain to the player, they begin on a budget of only two billion pounds. "Sweeping actions such as closing airports, beefing up research and isolating sick individuals does not come cheap. Strategy is key."

The video game also reminds players of past pandemics the world has endured, for example, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 which is estimated to have left 40 million dead.

The link to the game can be found here.

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