Scouts attending the National Jamboree last weekend in West Virginia had a very special opportunity to learn how disease spreads thanks to the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and researchers at Virginia Tech! Nearly three thousand Boy Scouts participated by filling out a short computer survey to become infected zombies during the ten day event.
The Virus Tracker combines technology with the age-old game of tag. At the 10-day Jamboree, Scouts can earn points by “infecting” other players through a “virus” on bar-coded labels that are attached to their Scout IDs. Codes can be activated at scanning stations or by smartphones that have downloaded the Virus Tracker app. Individuals and troops that amass the most points each day win.
Occasionally a cure would be sent out via the system in the form of a short epidemiology quiz. Users who guessed the correct answer would receive a vaccine allowing them to become human again! The Virus Tracker would then keep track of the number of infected and inoculated participants each day.
Researchers eventually used this data to created an “infection tree” to illustrate how individuals spread the zombie virus within their own population, and how diseases can quickly become pandemics.
You can learn even more about the Virus Tracker application itself by visiting the official website online at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech!