Erasmus MC Press Release Rotterdam, 05 May 2009
Darwin Year features serious game about flu pandemic
Beat the influenza virus and prevent a pandemic
In the online game ‘The Great Flu’ the player engages in a battle with a newly emerging influenza virus. During the game, the player learns how the world can prepare for a pandemic flu threat and about the measures necessary to combat a pandemic. The game, which was released in March 2009, has been developed by Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the framework of the Darwin Year 2009. The game can be played on www.thegreatflu.com

Medical science is involved in a continuous battle with influenza viruses. Relatively harmless viruses can create a new virus that is contagious and dangerous for humans. Particularly avian flu viruses qualify for creating such new viruses. In the worst case, this could cause a pandemic, a worldwide epidemic that can kill millions. In the 20th century, there have been three influenza pandemics.

This threat is the theme of the scientific event ‘H5N1 – The Evolution of an Influenza Virus’. The event consists of the online  serious game ‘The Great Flu’, an exhibition in the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, and an audio book/CD with a lecture by Prof. Albert Osterhaus, head of the Department of Virology at Erasmus MC.

The online serious game shows that we can certainly prepare for disease outbreaks caused by viruses and that scientific research plays an essential role in this. The game, developed by Ranj Serious Games, has, among other, films in which Prof. Osterhaus describes the scenario of an influenza pandemic. In the Darwin Year, Erasmus MC wants to use the game to bring scientific research to the attention of the youth and show that science can be exciting.

The visitor of the exhibition in the Natural History Museum Rotterdam has been ‘contaminated’ by an influenza virus and has to determine which virus it is. The exhibition raises biomedical backgrounds of viruses. It becomes clear how infection takes place, how viruses manage to keep changing and what medical science can do against influenza. But the exhibition also considers the importance of research using laboratory animals and of cooperation between government, university researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.

The online serious game ‘The Great Flu’ can be played on www.thegreatflu.com

The exhibition ‘H5N1 – The Evolution of an Influenza Virus’ can be visited until 25 October, 2009 in the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, Westzeedijk 345, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, www.nmr.nl

Erasmus MC is the largest University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Our primary goal is a healthy population. Nearly 13,000 employees devote themselves every day to providing outstanding care, facilitating world-class education and conducting pioneering research. These professionals are instrumental in developing expertise on health and illness. They link the latest scientific insights to practical treatments and prevention measures to provide maximum benefit to patients and to enable healthy people to stay healthy longer. Being visibly better and leading the way in the areas of complex, innovative and acute care by collaborating with others: these are key ambitions at Erasmus MC.