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Univ. of Iowa researchers create online video game that teaches children about influenza and vaccines

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 8:24 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Dr. Maurine Neiman, with the University of Iowa biology department, wanted to help children better understand the flu and flu vaccines. The topic hits close to home for her because she lost her 2 year old from flu complications in 2019.

“He had been vaccinated, but because vaccine coverage is so low even being vaccinated provides you only partial protection,” said Dr. Neiman.

So she and a group of her biology students created an online game called Flu’s Clues.

“The quest is about figuring out which countries are experiencing an influenza outbreak and then designing a vaccine that can effectively treat the strains of influenza that are effecting these countries,” said Dr. Neiman.

Graduate student Joseph Jalinsky had a major role in designing the game. He said he wanted it to resemble the types of games he played growing up.

“It’s akin to a choose your own adventure where participants will log into the website and they’ll take a journey across the world and solve a flu mystery,” said Jalinsky.

Chelsea Higgins also helped create and narrate the game. She says what sets it apart from other similar sites is that players won’t ever lose the game.

“No matter what, doing something is winning. Doing something to help is always going to help someone,” she told TV-9.

Higgins says the two main points of the game are to learn and enjoy the process.

“No matter what vaccine you make, you’re still saving at least a few lives,” said Higgins.

Briante Najev wrote the formulas for those vaccines.

She says she had to really focus on something that can be complex to a younger population.

“Any science that I’m doing, I have to understand it at a basic level,” she said. “If I can’t explain it to other people, then I don’t understand it and I think this game highlights that.”

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