New game simulates major disease outbreak, puts players in shoes of disease specialists

Gamification has been shown to hold promise for hand hygiene adherence and various other infection control quandaries but what about for prepping for major disease outbreaks? 

A team of researchers from Fort Collins-based Colorado State University have created two versions of a video game to test the thousands of variables and what-if scenarios that disease specialists and computer scientists wrestle with when considering the possibility of epidemic outbreaks. The multiplayer version of the game is called "Symphony" and the single player version is "Sonata."

"When a disease breaks out, you need to know how severe is it? How long will it last? How many field personnel do you need? What are the economic consequences? How will commodity prices be affected? What will happen if you start vaccinating?" Shrideep Pallickara, associate professor in CSU's College of Natural Sciences and lead researcher on the project, said in a news release.

Calculating the answers to those questions can take hours, Mr. Pallickara said. What "Symphony" and "Sonata" are designed to do is take 100,000 of those variables and run them in a cloud computer that generates the billions of answers and spits out data analytics. This should enable disease planners and specialists playing the game to make predictions in real time. 

The multiplayer element is designed to facilitate collaborative decision making for disease specialists, who generally work in isolation, according to the researchers. They expect group gaming element to help cement the outcomes and concepts of the game by putting players in the positions of those they may not generally work with a policymaker operating from the perspective of a field agent, for example. 

The game is funded by a three-year grant from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology.

More articles on infection control:

WHO declares Zika virus & link to birth defects an international public health emergency
CDC issues emergency advisory on severe flu cases being reported
No news is good news? Not when it comes to slowing disease, study finds

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