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University of Iowa researchers design game to teach kids about influenza and vaccines

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University of Iowa researchers helped to design an online game called Flu's Clues to teach kids about influenza and vaccines

As public health experts predict Iowa is on track to experience a more severe flu season this year, researchers have created an online game to help teach kids about influenza.

University of Iowa researchers teamed up with the non-profit Families Fighting Flu to create the interactive online game.

It's called Flu's Clues.

It takes kids around the world to India, Nigeria, Argentina and Taiwan to identify influenza outbreaks. They then help to design a vaccine to save lives.

Maurine Neiman, an associate professor of biology at the University of Iowa, said the game is designed so no one loses.

"We wanted them to get the message that any vaccine — even if imperfect — is still going to be better than not doing anything at all. So that's why we set it up the way that we did," she said.

Neiman said researchers also very intentionally featured a variety of scientists from different backgrounds and cultures to show kids anyone can be a scientist.

"You can be younger. You know, you can be Black. You can be from countries besides the US. That was really important messaging for us," Neiman said. "And it's something that I think that my team and I were really pleased to be able to kind of implicitly incorporate into the game."

She said even though the game is focused on the flu, but hopes it stresses the importance of vaccines in general, and said it teaches kids to ask questions.

"We're not saying so explicitly, but we're doing science as we go," she said. "We're asking questions, we're getting answers. And we're refining our techniques, and our approaches and our conclusions as we go forward."